BVU Student Lands Teaching Job Before Student-Teaching Begins

Summer school experience, teacher shortages put Beaver teachers in high demand.

Last summer, Regan Sylvester was one of nearly two dozen Buena Vista University students who taught summer school at the Storm Lake Community School District.

As a result of her work, Sylvester received an offer for a full-time teaching job during the summer. The offer from the Storm Lake Community School District came before Sylvester even served one day as a student-teacher.

The December 2021 BVU graduate is fast approaching the last few weeks of her first full-time teaching assignment with the Storm Lake Community School District. She didn’t face the stress of job interviews, which often involves traveling and teaching on-site as part of the interview process. Sylvester has had her full-time teaching position secured since August, or about the time she began student teaching.

The phenomenon illustrates a few takeaways:

  • Sylvester’s skill in the classroom, traits observed last summer by Storm Lake Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Stacey Cole and Storm Lake Middle School Principal Megan Richardson.
  • The ability of the BVU School of Education to prepare teachers for the marketplace. According to Dr. Brittany Garling, Dean of the School of Education, 95 percent of BVU’s student-teachers have contracts signed for full-time employment with school districts in advance of their completion of student-teaching assignments. Twenty BVU student-teachers taught during the Fall 2021 semester. All 20 secured full-time teaching positions in January 2022, like Sylvester.
  • The marketplace itself. Due to low unemployment and challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, superintendents across Iowa and the US have become more aggressive and creative in filling vacancies in the classroom.

COVID-19 set the education career in motion for Sylvester, a 2018 graduate of Sioux Central High School. Following her sophomore year at BVU, Garling asked if she might be interested in joining nearly two dozen other BVU peers in instructing at summer school in Storm Lake. These student-teachers gained valuable experience helping 500 K-12 students bridge social and educational gaps exacerbated by the school district closing its doors in 2020 due to the pandemic. A federal grant earned by the district compensated student-teachers for their work while a BVU benefactor helped pay for rooms so the student-teachers could stay at BVU over the summer.

“I taught kindergarten in summer school and then had several of those students when I began student-teaching in first grade during the fall (of 2021),” Sylvester says. “That really helped me with my transition to student-teacher as I knew many children and their families already. I also knew much about the school district and several staff members because of my summer school experience.”

Sylvester taught first-graders for eight weeks as a student-teacher last autumn, then moved to a sixth-grade language arts classroom that didn’t have a full-time educator due to a teacher shortage. Sylvester taught under the supervision of 2014 BVU graduate Chelsea Baker, who directed the same curriculum in an adjacent classroom. Sylvester always had an English language learner co-teacher or a special education co-teacher in the sixth-grade classroom with her during her time as a student-teacher. When the first semester ended, she remained in that sixth-grade classroom as a full-time teacher.

“I never had to interview for a job, because I already had one,” says Sylvester, who intends to finish the academic year teaching at the middle school. She’s been offered—and has accepted—a full-time position teaching third grade this fall at Storm Lake Elementary School.

“We are fortunate to have BVU and its School of Education as great partners,” says Cole, a 1996 BVU graduate. “Having BVU students serve as instructors last summer benefitted our community in many ways. First, keeping many students who were in need throughout the pandemic in the classroom was vital as we worked to keep them connected academically and socially. Second, our veteran teachers needed time to recharge and BVU’s students provided a wonderful means of relief.

“Finally, the summer school experience allowed us to identify students like Regan Sylvester who could continue to serve the children of our district as they transitioned from BVU into roles as student-teachers and graduates seeking to begin their career,” Cole adds.

Cole notes that Sylvester’s ability to set routines while communicating with elementary children helped the district while also setting her apart. “Regan was masterful in the classroom,” Cole says.

The success of this scenario for both the emerging BVU graduate and the local district has Storm Lake school administrators eyeing an apprenticeship grant that may help fund future partnerships with BVU and its School of Education.

At its basic level, for Sylvester, the connection BVU enjoys with the Storm Lake Community School District, has allowed her to focus on teaching this semester. She’s not occupied with job applications and travel, and interview preparations.

“Being in Storm Lake has really worked out,” she says. “I’ve been able to teach in a district I knew while serving our students and helping the district fill a need.”