Student-teaching experiences prepared me for diverse school settings

NAME: Jessa Thorn  


MAJOR: Elementary education (reading endorsement) 

CURRENT EMPLOYMENT: Fourth-grade teacher, Storm Lake Elementary School

WHY WARTBURG: I decided to come to Wartburg because I absolutely loved the campus, facilities, and all the opportunities that Wartburg provided. I fell in love with Wartburg the minute I walked on campus and had my first tour. Wartburg just felt right, and it was also nice to only be 40 minutes away from home.

Jessa Thorn and her Storm Lake class

WHAT OPPORTUNITIES DID YOU HAVE TO GAIN EXPERIENCE WITHIN YOUR MAJOR: I had numerous opportunities that I’m so thankful for. I got to help plan the Wartburg Young Writers Conference, which hosted numerous elementary students. As a group we planned lessons centered around skills to brainstorm efficiently and the process and steps of narrative writing. I got to be a part of helping to plan for the Educational Visit Day at Wartburg, where we hosted high school students possibly wanting to major in education themselves. I got to learn through my field experiences in third grade in Waterloo, kindergarten in Clarksville, summer school at Aplington-Parkersburg, second grade at Margaretta Carey Elementary School in Waverly, fifth and sixth grade at Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School, third grade at Irving Elementary in Waterloo, second grade at Southeast Elementary in Waverly, and second grade at West Cedar Elementary in Waverly.

For student teaching, I got to do my first seven weeks in a seventh grade language arts classroom at Hoover Middle School in Waterloo. I wrote a narrative writing unit with another student teacher who was in the room right next to mine. We shared a moveable wall and co-taught many lessons throughout the day. It was great experience working with another student teacher and working together to plan our lessons and bounce ideas back and forth. My second seven weeks I got to teach fifth grade at Benjamin Parker Elementary School in Kaneohe, Hawaii. It was an unbelievable opportunity to teach there, and I would recommend this trip to everyone.

WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN HAWAII THAT BENEFITS YOU NOW: I was a part of the second group to student teach in Hawaii. Benjamin Parker Elementary School is a high-needs/poverty school where I taught all subjects. This teaching experience really taught me to try things out of my comfort zone. I had never lived more than 40 minutes away from home and family, so it was a big step for me to move more than 4,000 miles away for over seven weeks. I also learned new instructional strategies, classroom technology, and the curriculum they used. At this school, they used Wonders for Language Arts, which is the curriculum we use at the school I teach at now. I got to work with the other fifth-grade teachers to plan and triy new technology that they used in the classroo, which I use in my classroom now.

DID YOU HAVE TIME TO EXPLORE THE ISLAND WHILE YOU WERE THERE: I was there student teaching with one of my friends from Wartburg. We went on numerous hikes that we found throughout the island – my favorite was Maunawili Falls because it wasn’t a paved path, and we walked through water, mud, and forest. At the end there was a waterfall that we got to jump off of into the water at the bottom. We went to North Shore and did lots of exploring, and we got to watch the professional surfboard competition, The Pipeline. I think our favorite thing we did was cage swimming with the sharks out in the ocean. We were taken about five miles out where they had the cage we got into,  and there were about 20 sharks there. Another one of my favorite things we did was snorkeling at Hanauma Bay, seeing the coral reefs and all the different types of turtles and fish. We were always out and about exploring the island of Oahu, trying new food and weeing all different parts of the island. 

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND THIS OPPORTUNITY TO OTHER EDUCATION MAJORS: Student teaching in Hawaii was an extraordinary and rewarding trip that I will never forget. I got to work with a remarkable staff and grow strong relationships with my students who I miss tremendously. It’s definitely a once in a lifetime opportunity, and I can’t express enough how grateful I am for it. This opportunity was also a great resume builder, and I had many different administration members tell me that this experience put me above other applicants. It’s such a diverse and unique place to do your experience that sparked so much conversation during my interviews. I encourage anyone thinking about this trip to go out to Hawaii and student teach – you won’t regret it.

HOW DID YOUR WARTBURG EXPERIENCE PREPARE YOU FOR THE PROFESSIONAL WORLD: My student-teaching placements prepared me for diverse school settings and how to best support those students. While I was in Waterloo, there were interpreters speaking while I was teaching lessons throughout the day. Through this I learned how to best support these students and embrace the diversity of our school. Now I teach in a very diverse school, and we have 24 different languages spoken throughout our district.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE WARTBURG MEMORY: I don’t know if I have one favorite Wartburg memory because I loved every minute of it. If I had to choose, it was Hawaii – it was an experience that I will never forget. Another one of my favorite Wartburg memories was beating Loras in triple overtime my senior year of lacrosse.

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR CURRENT STUDENTS: For current education students, all of the work you put in for your classes will pay off when you get your teaching job. I have used so much of what I have learned from my professors and did in my education classes to help make my classroom great. Making bulletin boards, lesson planning, field experiences, all of it, really do pay off when you have your own classroom.

WHY WAS YOUR WARTBURG EXPERIENCE WORTH IT: Wartburg is worth it for so many different reasons, and I wish I could go back and do it all over again. Wartburg was home and the best four years of my life – it taught me to work hard and gave me opportunities to go to numerous states. I got to travel to student teach in Hawaii, made life-long relationships with my professors and staff, got to play the sport I love, and got my teammates and best friends.