Friday, April 28, 2017

By Andy Goodell

Courtney Fredrickson, of Forest City, Iowa, has wanted to be a teacher since she was in the sixth grade.

After earning an Albert and Martha Ruffalo First Generation Education Scholarship, which is given to first-generation UI College of Education students, Fredrickson’s confidence in her future as a teacher has skyrocketed.

“It feels like I get to make a new path for my family,” says Fredrickson.

During the annual College of Education Scholarship Awards Luncheon, Fredrickson expressed her gratitude for what the scholarship has done for her during a speech at Hotel Vetro. She is one of 111 students in the UI College of Education receiving scholarships this year.

Fredrickson’s parents couldn’t be prouder of their daughter.

“They love to be able to talk about it,” says Fredrickson, with a smile. “Anytime we go anywhere, they’re wearing their ‘Hawkeye Mom’ and ‘Hawkeye Dad’ shirts. Knowing that I’m doing something that makes me happy basically means the world to them.”

The Albert and Martha Ruffalo First Generation Education Scholarship was established to help first-generation college students succeed.

“My parents were from Italy and neither one graduated from high school,” says Ruffalo. “They stressed the importance of building a better life and how education could open that door. I was the first of our family to receive a degree and it was an easy decision to set up the Ruffalo Scholarship fund to help first-generation students get their degree.”

Fredrickson, an elementary education major, is also seeking a reading endorsement and is set to graduate early in December 2017. She says reading has been a lifelong passion and that she has really enjoyed the opportunity to teach elementary students the fundamentals of literacy during her practicum work. Learning about literacy from faculty has bolstered her ability to teach.

“I just like to lose myself in different stories,” says Fredrickson. “My literacy classes here have been a blast.”

As a first-generation college student, Fredrickson is incredibly grateful for all of the resources and faculty that the UI College of Education offers. She says many faculty members have served as mentors, noting that Clinical Instructor Ted Neal and Associate Professor Renita Schmidt have been especially influential during her college experience.

Having faculty that show a genuine love for teaching has kept Fredrickson engaged with her classwork and practicums at Horace Mann and Norman Borlaug elementary schools. Her classwork and practicums work cohesively to let her apply what she’s learned in the classroom to her practicums right away.

“You actually feel like a real teacher doing these things,” says Fredrickson.

Looking beyond graduation, Fredrickson says she would like to teach early elementary students in the Iowa City Community School District because she admires the district so much. But she hasn’t ruled out teaching outside the U.S. This level of confidence in her future can be attributed to the Ruffalo Scholarship, as well as the support she’s received from faculty and fellow Teacher Education Program students.

“I have support all around,” says Fredrickson.