Student Teaching in Other Countries
International student teaching is a unique opportunity for some Wheaton College education majors. There are many practicums embedded in the Wheaton Teacher Education Program (WheTEP) from cross-cultural tutoring to teacher aiding to a methods practicum, culminating in a full-time student teaching placement during the final year. Student teaching is a 13-14 week teaching experience in a school under the mentorship of an licensed and experienced teacher. A few students at Wheaton consider the option to complete this requirement in an international placement. These students first apply the spring of their sophomore year for provisional approval. If students are provisionally accepted, they weekly meet with Dr. Egeland through their junior year in preparation for this unique opportunity. Applicants have some input on placements, but the international schools must be accredited and use an English language and have a licensed mentor teacher. Over the past 20 years, Wheaton has sent students to every continent (except Antarctica) for student teaching, visiting countries from Thailand to Tanzania to Austria to Brazil.
Why Student Teach Abroad?
There are many reasons students decide to complete their student teaching internationally. Some have a deep passion for learning about other cultures and want “to see how education would be different” in another country, states Corinne Bryan, currently student teaching in Ecuador. Students are able to combine both a required student teaching experience and a study abroad experience that may be otherwise difficult to fit in the structure of the education program through international student teaching. Regardless of what draws students to international student teaching, there are highlights and challenges as well as surprises. Some challenges involved in international student teaching are juggling meetings and “balancing my life at school and my life at home”, according to Corinne at Alliance Academy. Many student teachers also struggle with loneliness and adjusting to a new culture.
Though the experience can be challenging, there are many rewards. For example, student teachers may have the opportunity to complete their student teaching at a Christian international school which provides a unique experience. Jozua van Bakel (currently student teaching English language arts in Taiwan) and Anna James (currently student teaching third grade in Colombia) note activities such as “chapel, small group, and devotions” are a highlight. Eugene Oh (currently in Taiwan) is student teaching in a Christian school, but most of her students are not Christians. For Corinne Bryan, “getting to know the students and learning about their backgrounds and experiences” is the best part. Others like Maggie Rhee and Abby Grace McGee (both in Ethiopia) student teach in secular international schools, and teach International Baccalaureate (IB or PYP) curriculum. In all international student teaching placements, student teachers experience an incredible amount of growth as they hone their teaching skills, experience a new culture, and develop more independence. Overall, international student teaching is an enriching opportunity for WheTEP students to learn in a new context, relying on God every step of the way.
Text and photos contributed by Emily Heidick, who student taught in Kenya the fall of 2018
Dr. Eckert Moves to Baylor to Start Leadership Program
Jon Eckert, Ed.D. left Wheaton College the summer of 2019 for a position at Baylor University as The Lynda and Robert Copple Endowed Chair in Christian School Leadership. After a decade in Wheaton’s Department of Education, his colleagues and students at Wheaton will miss him as he begins this new chapter in his career.
After graduation from Wheaton as an elementary education major in 1996, Dr. Eckert taught fifth grade at Emerson Elementary in Wheaton and then middle school in the Nashville area while completing his Doctorate at Vanderbilt. From there he was a Fellow in the US Department of Education for one year before returning to Wheaton to become a highly regarded faculty member of the Education Department. Students enjoyed Dr. Eckert’s methods’ courses as he prioritized being an engaging teacher and modelling innovative, effective teaching practices.
In addition to teaching General Education Methods, Science Methods and initiating the U.S. Education Policy course; Dr. Eckert led a mentoring group of undergrad students that met weekly to maintain the WheTeach website and support first-year graduates from the Wheaton Teacher Education Program (WheTEP). The annual new-teacher survey sent each spring to last May’s graduates, is unique due to its extremely high response rates. These 90% or higher survey response rates are possible because of Dr. Eckert’s knowledge of and professional relationships with these students, starting with freshman advising and extending through the methods’ courses and student teaching. Dr. Eckert prayed faithfully for his students through their involvement in his classes, and the mentoring group joined him in prayer for those graduating and beginning their first year of teaching. The photos around Dr. Eckert’s office walls of student teachers were visual reminders to continue praying.
Dr. Eckert is also an author of two books focusing on different teaching strategies and new innovations in the field. He often travels to public school districts and Christian schools to learn more about best practices in teaching and school leadership and to present what he has learned. Dr. Eckert is a model in the field of education because as he states, “I will always be a teacher and learner at heart…This is my 24th year in education, and what I love about our calling is that we never stop learning.” This posture of life-long learning makes Dr. Eckert a strong contributor to the field of education.
These gifts will help Dr. Eckert as his responsibilities at Baylor include building annual academies and institutes for Christian school leaders. Dr. Eckert is also developing courses for a master’s degree and Ph.D. in school leadership to be offered by Baylor. Though his position is more administrative than the one he held at Wheaton, he still has the opportunity to teach an undergrad course, much to his pleasure. He said of all his experiences, “I now have grounding in elementary through college classrooms, in education policy, in research, and in leadership. These experiences inform everything that I do. I do not have a prescription for school improvement, any silver bullets, or any program. What we are using is a process of collective leadership development that unleashes the leadership work of educators for students' benefit.” Always a devote Christian and a committed learner, there is no doubt Dr. Eckert will continue to inspire and develop effective educators.
Contributed by Emily Heidick '19
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 faculties 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 has 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.