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A unique experience from student teaching in Chicago

A junior from Beloit College, Kendra Grogan, shared her special “study-abroad” experience in Chicago, where she gained the in-classroom experience as a student teacher at Nettelhorst Elementary.

Kendra Grogan’21 is an Education and Youth studies major with a minor in English. Kendra is a part of the Lacrosse team, an organizational tutor and also an office assistant in the education department.

Kendra was inspired to become a teacher after watching the movie Maltida. The teacher character, Ms. Honey, who was sweet, smart, and cared deeply about her student Matilda, was everything Kendra wanted to be as a teacher. Kendra knew that majoring in EDYS was the right path for me to become a teacher and stuck with it because the professors are SO great. They care about the students in the program and really do prepare students to be teachers.

As one of the best students in the EDYS department, Kendra constantly thrived for opportunities that could help her gain more in-classroom teaching experiences. When planning to study abroad, Kendra was introduced by the Office of International Education (OIE) to a program called The Chicago Center for Urban Life (CCUL). According to Kendra, the process was not difficult with the help of the department. Most of it was over the phone with the student teaching director for CCUL and the marketing director.

Talking about this experience as a 1st-grade student teacher at Nettelhorst Elementary with a class size of 21 students where there are 8 languages spoken by the students, Kendra shared that there were many challenges she experienced and overcame herself. Kendra said that as a 1st grade teacher, teaching the students how to read is the most important but by no mean an easy job. Even though Kendra felt that she was not fully prepared for this task, she had to quickly figure out by talking with her Cooperating Teacher about readings that could help her learn how to teach kids how to read. Kendra started working 1 on 1 with a struggling reader and then also with the higher-level readers in their class.

To Kendra, waking up to go to school was something she initially thought she would have the most trouble. However, Kendra soon found that the motivating factor of “I need to teach these children” or “these kids are going to love the lesson I have planned today” would get her out of bed.

Being a student teacher in Chicago in her junior year helped Kendra grow as a person. She learned to commute and stay safe on CTA from living on the south side and teaching on the north side. Kendra faced challenges while trying to figure out how to work with people in the work world. This one of a kind real life work experience. Since the school where Kendra taught was against big technology companies taking over students’ learning, she had learned how to not prepare interactive math labs for first graders without using technology.

Find yourself so into this student teaching opportunity with CCUL? Check out some advice from Kendra below:

“If you are coming to CCUL to be a student teacher, I would recommend taking the time to really think about what type of school you would prefer to teach in and what type of cooperating teacher you would work best with. I asked for a CT that was progressive and encouraged body-mind thinking and learning. You may want to have the experience of working in a school that is 99% Latinx or a school that is 99% African American or a school that is a magnet fine arts school. There are so many options in Chicago. Do what would be BEST FOR YOU and your career.”

Linh Anh Le’20
May 11, 2020
  • Credit: Chicago Center for Urban Life (CCUL)
    To see the whole interview by CCUL, click here

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