BVU’s partners in education
Iowa's public and private schools have long served as a critical training ground for Buena Vista University students in the School of Education and Exercise Science at the Storm Lake campus and the 15 sites of BVU's Professional & Online Studies program.
The schools offer BVU students classroom observation experiences, as well as student teaching placements their senior year, says Julie Finnern, assistant professor of education and field experience coordinator. "They student teach in two eight-week periods," she says. "For students at our main campus, one of the schools must be within 60 miles of Storm Lake so they can be supervised by our faculty. The other can be beyond 60 miles as long as there is a qualified supervisor available." In recent years, a few students have even completed part of their student teaching requirement in schools as far away as Italy, Greece, and Brazil.
The cooperation of participating schools is crucial to BVU's education program. Among the area schools that have most frequently hosted student teachers from the Storm Lake campus are Storm Lake public and St. Mary's, Newell-Fonda, Alta and Schaller-Crestland.
"St. Mary's has been a solid partner with the School of Education for more than 20 years," notes Finnern. "Even through changes in administration and faculty, we have maintained a good working relationship. Our students gain meaningful experiences and St. Mary's has hired many of our graduates."
St. Mary's hosts from three to four student teachers from BVU annually, says Bev Mach, Master's Class of 2000, principal. Currently, the St. Mary's staff has 30 teachers, including 10 who are BVU graduates, as well as two guidance counselors who received their master's degrees at BVU.
One of those BVU graduates, Kate Droessler, Class of 2007, also did her student teaching at St. Mary's. "It was the best student teaching experience I had," recalls Kate, who teaches history in the middle and high school grades. "Nothing could compare to the energy, friendliness, dedication and spirituality I found at St. Mary's. Though I was a little nervous, I was also excited because I was finally getting a chance to do what I had wanted to do my entire life."
Amanda Richards, Class of 2008, a St. Mary's elementary reading teacher who, as a BVU student, did a classroom observation at the school, says she was impressed by "how well the staff works together to solve problems. It showed me how much effective teaching relies on teachers working as a team."
Courtney Supri, Class of 2008, who did her student teaching at St. Mary's, is now in her second year as an elementary school special education teacher in Liberty, Mo. "Before I graduated from college I had worked in other jobs in retail and food services, but when I did my student teaching I never felt more like myself than I did working with kids," she says. "As a teacher, I love to see the progress my students make each day. Nothing is more rewarding than seeing the ‘light bulb' come on when they learn something new."