Left to right: Morgan Sietsema, Lillian Hankemeier, Kris Eells, Karly Raus, Ashlee Rush, and Mady Fink
One student teacher isn’t unusual in an elementary school, but three in a specific grade level at a single school is rare.
At Viola Gibson Elementary School this fall, three student teachers—Morgan Sietsema from the University of Northern Iowa, Karly Raus from the University of Iowa, and Mady Fink from Coe College—have joined the third grade classrooms of Lillian Hankemeier, Kris Eells, and Ashlee Rush.
Eells, who has had over 20 student teachers in her career, enlisted her colleagues last spring to request student teachers. This unique experience benefits not only the teachers, but also the student teachers during this crucial learning period before they launch their careers.
“It’s been so nice to have Lillian as my mentor teacher, but being able to also go to [Kris and Ashlee] for advice, it’s like having three mentor teachers,” explains Sietsema. “We’re just a big ol’ team. That’s been really helpful with my student teaching process.”
Sietsema wanted to try something new after several teaching opportunities in the Cedar Valley area during her college education, and chose Cedar Rapids as her preferred student teaching placement.
“I think I got to where I was exactly supposed to be,” she says. “Cedar Rapids Community School District (CRCSD) is definitely a good place to be as a teacher. We work as a team. You’re here for the same job to help kids succeed and grow—I think that’s a really good aspect of the schools here.”
The professional learning community that the student teachers have participated in together with the third grade team has been an added bonus.
“It’s really nice to have others who are on the same level as you,” says Fink. “It’s just awesome having that extra support there, and it’s changed my experience completely for the better because we’re able to reflect on [our experience] differently.”
“I’ve never seen such a cohesive group. The teachers I’m working with on the third grade team are absolutely incredible,” she adds. “They’re very supportive of each other; they understand their own strengths and weaknesses—they’re very self-aware.”
The sense of community at Viola Gibson and in CRCSD has really stood out to the student teachers.
“I have learned that a school community is so important, that everybody is working together; everybody wants to see success,” says Raus. “Building that community and having that strong bond with everybody—it just makes it a better environment.”
After completing their student teaching experiences in December, Fink, Sietsema, and Raus look forward to applying their experiences in their teaching careers.
“[Teaching] is my one true passion; it’s what I’m good at and I do genuinely feel like I was placed on this Earth to be a teacher,” explains Raus. “Working with children—that’s wealth to me.”
Interested in working at CRCSD? Learn more about open positions here.