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Student Teaching Highlights

Contributed by Jozua Van Bakel '19

Student teaching is the pinnacle practicum for every education major, whether seeking an elementary, secondary, or K-12 Illinois professional educator license. Education professors are also excited to see their students step into actual classrooms and gain the experience of a real-time teacher. However, education students do not suddenly "drop" into student teaching; each student is rigorously prepared through a set of courses, practica, and state content tests before stepping into this teaching role. By this time teacher candidates have engaged in cross-cultural tutoring, teacher aiding, a methods practicum and a special education practicum, all in educational contexts in the area. These essential practical experiences expose education students to one-on-one interactions, teacher instruction, observing student differences, and opportunities to work with a range of students. Whether in elementary or secondary/K-12 education with a subject/content major, all are being prepared to teach in a range of contexts domestically and internationally.

Current education students are now student teaching in school districts surrounding the Wheaton area, in the city of Chicago, and even in countries such as Taiwan, Australia, and Hungary. Student teachers participate an intense, 13-14 week internship, starting by assisting their co-operating teacher(s) and gradually leading towards full-time teaching of their students. This is an exciting time for these teachers who apply their learning to the classroom and take on tangible teaching challenges. We have students teaching from first grade through high school in multiple disciplines such as German, music, English, math, science, and history.

A few teachers expressed their formative experiences and personal challenges. Max Schaafsma, a current student teacher at an elementary school, says “It is so much fun to spend a lot of time with the children and seeing them learn and grow as people! …I was not mentally prepared to have to work such long days and spend so much time planning - but it is all worth it!” 

Similarly, music student teacher, Hudson Brown expressed his excitement when he was about to assist a student, “only to find another student already teaching them the material.” During his student teaching experience, Hudson wished to “get example edTPAs completed as soon as possible.” As he notes, “It was by far the most helpful asset.” Student teachers not only commit to classroom work but also submit a performance assessment (edTPA) of their teaching for their licensure. This involves submitting evidence of their classroom lesson plans, digital movies of their instruction, and feedback given on assessments.

Another music student teacher, Nello Barone, gives his advice for future student teachers, “It's imperative to be true to yourself. No matter what, I think kids want to see who you are. They don't want anything contrived; they can see right through that. But being genuine and open with them will encourage them to do the same with you.” Barone also believes teachers need to model openness and respect which will not only help students model it back to their teacher but also to their peers creating an atmosphere of “rapport and trust.”

Student teaching is a significant component of the long process toward an education student’s teaching career. Teachers gain valuable experiences that help them become equipped to meet the challenges and transition into their own future classrooms.

Sabbatical Update on Dr. Jonas

This fall, one of our beloved professors, Dr. Jonas, has been on sabbatical. Dr. Jonas normally teaches the first class that all education majors take in their course sequence, EDUC 135, the School and Society. He also teaches EDUC 497, Philosophy of Education, the last class of an education major’s course sequence. While he’s away, Dr. Eckert has taken over EDUC 135, but Dr. Jonas will still be joining the student teachers at HoneyRock for Philosophy of Education at the end of the semester. I caught up with Dr. Jonas to talk to him about his experiences on sabbatical so far.

Wheaton College gives professors the opportunity to apply for a sabbatical every seven years. When asked what a sabbatical is, Dr. Jonas offered two definitions: a sabbatical as defined by Wheaton College and his own definition of a sabbatical. In his opinion, Wheaton College believes a sabbatical is giving professors the “opportunity to be able to focus [their] energy on pursuing things related to the vocation of teaching and learning and scholarship while being free of the encumbrances that normally take up the professor’s time.” However, Dr. Jonas’ personal definition of sabbatical is much broader—he believes that a sabbatical “ought to be provided for a professor for his or her general Christian flourishing because. . . it’s a professor’s general Christian flourishing that needs to be maximized for [them] to be the best educators.”

While on sabbatical, Dr. Jonas has been working on three main things: writing a book on Plato, preparing for an international conference at the end of October, and organizing the education department’s new Western European Philosophies of Education study abroad program. Dr. Jonas has been working on his book Becoming Virtuous: A Neoplatonic Theory of Moral Education for the past 6 months. It deals with “epiphanies in the classroom and the re-habituation of students into virtuous people.” The book will be for K-12 teachers, college professors, and Plato scholars.

Dr. Jonas is also one of the principal members of the Philosophy of Education Society of North America. This October, the new international philosophy of education society is having its inaugural meeting. Dr. Jonas has been behind the scenes working on a lot of the administrative details while getting everything ready for the upcoming meeting.

Finally, the Education Department has a new study abroad program titled Western European Philosophies of Education that is having its first trip this summer 2019. The trip involves going to France, Germany, and England for three weeks to observe and learn about education in Western Europe. Dr. Jonas is leading and organizing the trip which has kept him busy on top of everything else he has been doing. Nevertheless, he’s excited about the trip this summer and all the learning that will happen on it.

Dr. Jonas is grateful for the way things lined up this semester because his sabbatical gave him the flexibility to work from home on all of the administrative things related to his three projects. He admits he misses the students, though. When asked what his least favorite part about being on sabbatical is, he replied “I just miss teaching. I just love teaching.”
                                                                                     – Contributed by Sara Grace Rosselli, '20

Mentoring Opportunities for Education Students

Due to the funding initiatives of Wheaton College, a mentoring line was added to the Education Department almost ten years ago. This resulted in the hiring of Dr. Jon Eckert and additional support for other department faculty in mentoring undergraduate students. Since that time, scores of education majors have worked closely with department faculty on a wide range of projects.

Currently, all eight department faculty are or will be working on different projects with small groups of students. Prof Vroom Fick has been meeting with students interested in the influence of language on education and have been analyzing classroom literature using culturally and linguistically responsive criteria. They presented their findings at the Illinois Resource Center Fall Conference. As the newest faculty member in the Education Department, Dr. Boehm is developing two mentoring tracks. One will support special education practitioners with their skill development, while the other will focus on special education research.

Dr. Kim's mentoring group consists of undergraduates heading toward Wheaton's MAT program. By his modeling and their research, they are growing as teacher/scholars and will be better prepared to conduct their own action research while student teaching. Dr. Jonas organizes a peer mentoring group each year to support the thinking and writing skills of the students who enroll in Educ 135, School and Society.

Dr. Eckert and Dr. Egeland also have ongoing mentoring projects. Dr. Eckert recruits interested freshman and sophomores and some continuing juniors who engage in the communication and support of recent graduates of the WheTEP programs. They assist with the annual education department alumni survey and update the WheTEACH website with that data as well as information about each state's teacher requirements. Dr. Egeland focuses on juniors and seniors preparing for student teaching abroad, exploring cross cultural challenges and the survey responses of past international student teachers.

After student teaching, Dr. Lederhouse's group of seniors will explore how to more effectively teach struggling math students. From Jo Boaler's research on mathematical mindsets, participants will rethink their instructional practices with those in their student teaching contexts who struggled in math. And Dr. Morrison and those she mentors will lean into the work of John Hattie on making visible learning for literacy.

Wheaton students are fortunate to have these opportunities to work closely with faculty on projects of mutual interest. These mentoring interactions allow for further professional and personal growth for all participants.