Sara Halverson stands in the Baker Teacher Leader Center.

Photo by Sara Nelson

| December 11, 2017

Little did Elizabeth Halverson know that when she began attending summer camp in 2010 through the Belin-Blank Center for Gifted Education and Talent Development, that she would be graduating seven years later from the University of Iowa as a Hawkeye Teacher.


The Belin-Blank Center, which is part of the UI College of Education, planted the seeds that sparked Halverson’s interest in coming to campus.


Halverson (BA, major in English, English Education Teacher Education Program, TEP), who was chosen as the student speaker for the inaugural College of Education Commencement, wants to inspire her future students, just as former teachers inspired her.


Halverson is one of 71 students who have completed the Teacher Education Program to be recommended to the Iowa Board of Educational Examiners for teacher licensure. Thirty-six of those students will receive the degree, Bachelor of Arts, with major in Elementary Education, conferred for the first time by the College of Education. The degree was previously conferred by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. A commencement ceremony will be held this Thursday, Dec. 14, at 5 p.m. at Hancher Auditorium.


The other 35 students will receive recognition of their completion of the Teacher Education Program at the UI College of Education's ceremony; many will also be recognized for degrees awarded at the commencement ceremonies of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences or the Graduate College.


Halverson was born and raised in Spencer, Iowa, where she became interested in being an English teacher, after she was motivated by her Language Arts and Talented and Gifted teacher, Mary Frank, in seventh grade.


“Good teachers are stubborn. The students may say they don’t care or want anyone else to, but good teachers can see through that,” says Halverson. “Good teachers change lives, and our future students need good teachers.”


After attending the Blank Summer Institute for social science and National Scholar Institute for creative writing, organized by the Belin-Blank Center in 2010, 2011, and 2012, Halverson felt at home at the UI. While she originally came to the university as an open major, the strength of the English program drew her in and helped her realize her dream of becoming an English teacher.


“I found Elizabeth’s story illuminating in regard to why the University of Iowa is a great choice for English education students,” says associate professor in English Education Carolyn Colvin. “They come to be students in the impressively strong English department and decide to pursue English education because of the reputation of our program.”


The National Council on Teacher Quality ranked the secondary education program in the top 2 percent nationally and elementary education in the top 6 percent nationally.


Halverson is grateful to the College of Education for the outstanding support she received from several faculty members, including Clinical Assistant Professor in Teaching and Learning, Rossina Liu and Clinical Professor in Teaching and Learning Amy Shoultz.


“The College of Education has such a system of support for students to rely on. The Linda R. Baker Teacher Leader Center is a great place to work alone or come together, and the professors are readily available for guidance,” Halverson says. “I also love that we are able to learn together with other future teachers, so that support system extends beyond the structured classes, to the individual student as a whole.”


Halverson is currently student teaching 11th grade English and 10-12th grade Creative Writing at West Liberty High School in West Liberty, Iowa. After graduation, Halverson plans to substitute teach in the Iowa City area while she looks for a full-time teaching position somewhere in Iowa for the 2018-2019 school year.


“I love the idea of being able to share my passion for English with others,” says Halverson. “Throughout my experiences in the classroom and student teaching, I’ve met so many wonderful students, some who love English as much as I do, and some who do not. That part becomes irrelevant when you think about what they have going on in their lives- their dreams and motivations, as well as the daily struggle they go through. They’re bright people who have so much to offer the world, and many of them need someone to point it out.”