Four elementary school teachers from inner-city Washington, D.C., will attend the graduation ceremonies of the Brigham Young University students they mentored this past semester, flying to the Beehive State on their own dime.
BYU elementary education major Michelle Condie says she's honored that the D.C. teachers would make the effort to see her and her six colleagues graduate.
"It shows the kind of relationship and friendship that we all have," said Condie. "So much of my preparation to become a teacher happened with these teachers. It's great to be able to share the culmination of it all with them."
Condie's fellow student teachers include elementary education majors Heidi Huber, Amren Patterson, Kara Petersen and Emily Proctor, as well as math major Diana Dimond and physics major Freda Christenson.
Mentor teacher Nikki Barber of Amidon Elementary School described the BYU student teachers as well prepared and very knowledgeable. But what impressed her most was their willingness to adapt to the differences of working with inner-city students.
"The great thing about the BYU students was that the changes they had to make were adjustments, not stumbling blocks," said Barber. "They came willing, prepared and eager to teach. If we had openings at Amidon, we would love them to stay."
Other mentor teachers include Autum Camper, Katina Bryant, and Teinsiene Ross.
"These teachers from D. C. know the process of adjustment that our students go through and now they want to learn about them and their life," said Becky Vanatter, the Washington, D.C., student teacher coordinator for BYU's McKay School of Education.
"We made such a lasting friendship," said Petersen. "It means a lot to have Ms. Camper come to Utah to support me at graduation, especially considering the fact that she is paying her way and willing and wanting to learn more about my school experiences and culture."
Proctor says it was the vulnerability of the D.C. experience that made friendships deep. "As we opened ourselves up to see things in a new way, to risk failure as we tried new methods and were pushed to our limits in terms of ability in the classroom, we really became bonded to these teachers."
The quality of teachers and administration within D.C.'s Amidon Elementary is the reason the McKay School places student teachers there, said Dean Richard Young, who personally visited the school before placement began last fall, meeting with administrators and sitting in on classrooms. What he saw were excellent teachers who instruct using quality educational programs and methods.
"We want our students to have an experience to learn and understand how quality education overcomes cultural and poverty factors," Young said.
The semester in D.C. infused most of the student teachers with a love for inner-city children. Many say they will apply for teaching positions in D.C., where they learned so much.
"I gained confidence in my ability to teach because I was pushed to my limits," said Petersen.
For these student teachers and mentor teachers, the experiences of the last semester have initiated growth beyond their expectations.
"During the last few years I thought a lot about teaching in the inner-city, but I was not sure if it was right for me," said Dimond. "After teaching in D.C. I cannot imagine working anywhere else."
Writer: Roxanna Johnson