Monday, December 12, 2016

By Andy Goodell

Becoming a well-rounded resource to students

In order to become a resourceful and confident teacher, one must have easy access to expert mentors and leading-edge learning spaces during their university experience.

At the University of Iowa College of Education, preservice teachers like Coryn Van Beek, have that opportunity. The Linda R. Baker Teacher Leader Center and many other resources offer students the chance to be mentored by national and international education experts.

Van Beek, an elementary education major from Rock Rapids, Iowa, has received a number of scholarships and awards and has been on the Dean’s List every semester from Fall 2013 to this fall. Although Van Beek says she’s had a lot of positive working relationships with UI College of Education faculty, one recent experience while working alongside Associate Professor Renita Schmidt in a classroom setting really stuck out in her mind.

“I had a student who was an emerging reader,” says Van Beek. “I feel like we really made some breakthroughs as far as his reading and writing went.”

While at the UI College of Education, Van Beek says that the Teacher Leader Center has been an amazing resource. This is due to individuals like Director of Professional Development at the Teacher Leader Center Kari Vogelgesang, Director of Projects and Partnerships at the Teacher Leader Center Will Coghill-Behrens, and Schmidt.

Coryn Van Beek teaches three students in the classroom

Coryn Van Beek interacts with Kindergarten students during her reading practicum at Van Allen Elementary School in North Liberty.

The space itself has helped Van Beek broaden her understanding of what it means to be a teacher, as it utilizes smart boards and other current technology to enrich the learning experience. She also expressed appreciation for the regular workshops held at the TLC.

“I don’t just want to focus on academics,” explained Van Beek. “My students are people. I think that the Teacher Leader Center and the Teacher Leader Certificate and all those workshops that happen down there really do a good job of helping teachers become more well-rounded as teachers to help our students become more well-rounded as students.”

For her practicums, Van Beek spent time in second-grade classrooms and a special education resource room for third- through sixth-graders, working on reading skills. She’s currently in a kindergarten classroom practicum. Van Beek noted the benefits of being able to interact with students as a preservice teacher through these practicums.

“That just makes it real,” Van Beek says.

Van Beek is slated to graduate in May of 2017 and plans to become a resource room teacher, working with students who need that little bit of extra support in order to thrive in their learning.