Rachel Mulder – Staff Writer
Where are you currently teaching? What grade are you teaching and how do you like it so far?
I am currently student teaching at Elim Christian School in Palos Heights, Illinois. My home is about 45 minutes away, and I commute each morning and pray for each of my students and staff on the way.
Elim is a Christian school founded to teach individuals with disabilities. I am in a middle school classroom with seven students who are academically at a first to third grade level. Along with the seven students, we have five staff members who help in our room each day: my cooperating teacher, three one-to-one paraprofessionals, and a teacher’s aide.
I absolutely love teaching at Elim! I look forward to going there each morning because each day is so unique. Even if a day is planned out perfectly, you never know when a behavior will occur or when the students will say “all done” and the lesson will need to stop.
I look forward to teaching a lesson on Marine Life in the upcoming weeks. I am planning to bring in my fish, a conch shell, and a turtle shell to help my class learn about ocean animals. I am planning a field trip to the John G. Shedd Aquarium in downtown Chicago; I figured the best way to make ocean animals come alive would be to go visit them in person! I hope the students will be engaged and come to appreciate God’s creativity, precision, and variety that He used when creating aquatic animals.
What is the school community like?
The school community at Elim is amazing. The people are caring, loving, encouraging, patient and gracious as they live a life of service every day. The students are also wonderful. It is a joy to get to know them, work with them and be humbled by their ambition and love for life.
You have an endorsement in special education. Is that what you are interested in pursuing after graduation?
After graduation, I am not 100 percent sure what God has in store for me. I would be open to teaching in a general education classroom, a resource room, or in a school where all of the students had disabilities.
So far is your current placement anything like you thought it would be?
Going into Elim, I did not know what to expect. I knew Elim was a school for individuals with special needs, but I didn’t know the age of my students, their developmental level or the level of communication I would be able to have with them. Getting into my classroom and observing helped me to prepare for teaching them.
Where was your first placement and what grade did you teach there?
I was at Crown Point Christian School in St. John, IN. I taught first grade and had 27 first graders in my class. Transitioning from 27 to 7 students has been a big difference!
Have your student teaching experiences reaffirmed your decision to be an education major?
I have learned a lot through my student teaching experiences. Getting into the field is an invaluable experience. My education, work and volunteer experiences have all been very positive experiences that have helped me to confirm my pursuit of a degree in elementary education.
What has been the best or most memorable experience of student teaching?
Each day we have devotions in our class, which consists of the students choosing a Christian song to play. We have a child with Autism in our class, and although he does not frequently communicate verbally, he does enjoy music and likes to hold hands with a teacher as our devotional song comes to a close. One of my first days at Elim, one of the paraprofessionals in our class danced with him (a 6’4,” 240 lb middle schooler) and sang “My Savior Loves, My Savior Lives.” He mouthed the words and beamed with joy the whole time he danced along. I was almost in tears because although this boy may never be a star student with high academic success, he knows the most important thing in life—that our Savior lives and our Savior loves him!