Kameron Nettleton

Kate Swan is training to become an elementary teacher. She is also an admitted perfectionist. Those two things don’t always mesh well together.

Swan spent her semester as a student teacher, working in a 4th-grade classroom. She recently wrapped up her student teaching experience and is preparing to graduate in May.

“One of the most surprising things about my student teaching experience was realizing that there is so much I didn’t, and still don’t, know,” she said. “Recognizing this was both humbling and freeing.”

As she gained more classroom experience, she realized that her students weren’t expecting perfection. They simply wanted their teacher to demonstrate that she loved them.

“I realized that perfection can never be reached in a classroom, and I learned to give myself grace. When I did that, I realized I wasn’t under the pressure I had felt at the beginning of the semester.”

That realization helped her better connect with her students on an individual level, getting to know their personalities and learning styles. The hard work paid off.

“On the first day I returned to the class after my student teaching was over, all my students yelled my name, jumped up, and hurried to give me a hug which almost knocked me over,” Swan recalls. “Being surrounded by all 22 of my students at once, seeing their smiles, and being told how much they missed me – that filled me with so much joy.”

Each student-teacher is partnered with a mentor teacher. Swan says the biggest thing she learned from her mentor was that teaching goes beyond just imparting knowledge to students.

“It’s about teaching them how to learn and helping them discover that learning is a wonderful thing.”

The experience, which every OKWU education major goes through before graduation, is geared to prepare them to jump into a classroom after their academic coursework is completed. For Swan, the experience was an affirming one.

“This semester confirmed to me in a beautiful way that I am called to teach, and I am so excited to start. If I could begin teaching tomorrow, I would!”

Swan will graduate in the spring, and she is already prepping for interviews in the early part of 2023. Her goal is to be in an elementary classroom next fall – her own classroom. This is her calling, and one she doesn’t take lightly after a semester of developing relationships with her students.

“Teaching is also about living before them as a reflection of Christ,” she said. “Hopefully they will one day come to know, love, and serve Him.”

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