Three Southeast Missouri State University education majors who have taken their skills, excitement and passion to Chile, South America, this semester for a unique opportunity to student teach at Eagles’ College are returning for spring commencement ceremonies this week with a reshaped global perspective.
The students have participated in the College’s teaching program in Iquique, a coastal city in northern Chile. Eagles’ College is an English immersion school for pre-school through high school students.
Helen Nichols, an exceptional child education major from Ballwin, Missouri; Tracie Beard, an early childhood education major from Iuka, Illinois; and Brianna McCarter, an exceptional child education major from St. Charles, Missouri, are completing this six-week adventure with plans to return for spring commencement at Southeast May 12.
Dr. Diana Rogers-Adkinson, dean of the College of Education at Southeast, said the students will reap enormous benefits from this overseas student teaching experience.
“I am so excited when our students travel abroad to teach. They have the opportunity to see both the similarities and differences in schools around the world,” she said. “We have partnerships in Chile, Panama, and the Department of Defense Schools. These collaborations allow our students to share those experiences with their future students as well, helping them understand our global society.
Nichols and Beard have had the opportunity to teach multiple grade levels and observe different classroom management styles in Chile. They have observed and engaged in subjects from technology and math to science and English from first grade through the high school level.
Thanks to the education program at Southeast and her field experiences, Nichols was well prepared and ready to jump into the classroom, she says.
Nichols didn’t hesitate to seize the opportunity to lead a third-grade lesson when asked to do so on just her third day in the classroom. Although teaching English Language Learners is difficult, she is always eager to learn and open to new experiences, she says.
“They don’t have as many resources here as we do back home which gives me the opportunity to show what I’ve learned and be as resourceful as I can to create fun and entertaining lessons,” Nichols said.
Beard has also gained confidence through her field experiences and time at Southeast. She has the preparation and education to teach in any classroom, even on another continent, she adds.
“My time at Southeast has given me many opportunities to step outside of my comfort zone, especially in the classroom,” Beard said. “Southeast has provided me with a support system that has given me the courage to student teach abroad.”
Beard was encouraged by her family as well as her Southeast family to student teach in Chile which has given her the experience of a lifetime, she says.
“To student teach in Chile was not an easy decision, but I am so thankful that I did,” said Beard. “This has been an incredible opportunity to see the world and a beautiful new culture. I have been able to experience so much that many other teacher candidates are not able to, and I almost passed it up!”
Nichols is gaining invaluable experience from the classroom to the culture that she will be able to take back to her classroom when she returns to the United States.
“When I head home, I will most likely have English Language Learners in my classes, and I will be much more understanding and patient as they learn because of my time in Chile,” said Nichols.
Learning first-hand about a culture and different school system has been a rewarding experience, Beard agrees.
“It is fascinating to me how different, yet the same, school is here versus what I have experienced back home,” said Beard. “Through teaching English Language Learners here, I have found that I have truly chosen the right career. I feel so much joy through teaching, and I am grateful to have been able to spread my passion to South America.”
After graduation, Nichols hopes to teach special education in a middle school or work with students with emotional or behavioral disorders in the St. Louis area.
Beard hopes to inspire young minds and is excited to be able to impact students’ future through teaching, she says.
Rogers-Adkinson, dean of the College of Education at Southeast, launched the program in 2015. Southeast collaborates with Eagles’ College in Chile to share teaching methods and strategies across its curriculum.