Going home: Student teaching expands across Indiana

May 13, 2010

SANTA CLAUS - Sara Buse sat in a yellow armchair as four fifth grade girls sat around her in a semi-circle on a striped rug. Each of them held "The Return of Wild Whoopers" in their hands.

"I'd like you to determine what genre you're reading," the senior elementary education major asked as the girls at Nancy Hanks Elementary School settled onto the rug.

"Nonfiction," one girl said.

"Historical nonfiction," another added.

When Buse began studying education at Indiana State University, she didn't think she could student teach near her hometown of Huntingburg. However, this year Indiana State expanded its student teaching area to across the state of Indiana and beyond.

Bayh College of Education Dean Brad Balch said Indiana State students for decades generally experienced student teaching only within 55 miles of the university.

"Part of our vision, mission and core values is to persistently demonstrate a commitment to the students that we serve and first and foremost the decision to move to a statewide model was student driven," he said.

Balch described the benefit as threefold with financial savings, showing off ISU's graduates and giving students the choice they want.

"First, that economically it is an advantage for our students if they choose to return to their hometown or other places they have housing availability that there is clearly an advantage to having that housing savings," he said. "Secondly, we wanted to share the greatness of our preparation programs throughout the state with other schools and districts. When you persistently adhere to a 55-mile radius those beyond that radius aren't able to enjoy our graduates and come to know the good work that they do.

"Then thirdly, our students tell us they want choice, choice in selecting the locale whether it be urban, rural, suburban, metropolitan settings."

That decision delighted Buse and her family.

"I was expecting to do student teaching in Vigo County, and that would have been OK too," she said. "But there's something about after four long years being able to finish up in your hometown."

Buse spent her last semester at Indiana State once again living with her family in Huntingburg while student teaching at Holland Elementary School and Nancy Hanks Elementary School in Santa Claus.

"I guess I'm a homebody," she said. "I think after going to college getting to come back here and getting to spend as much time as I can here is great."

Her family thinks so as well.

While Sara's mother Sandy Buse acknowledges the financial savings of not paying apartment expenses in Terre Haute, she just enjoys having her daughter home.

"From the mother's aspect, just that she's even in the house - even if I didn't talk to her as much as I would like - I know she's here and that's a good feeling," she said. "It's just very comforting knowing she's here."

"It's good to have her home," her father Scott Buse agreed.

Buse's two older sisters are educators in Huntingburg. Elizabeth Like, the oldest, teaches sixth grade while second-born Abby Buse teaches preschool.

"Of course, I like to have my sister around," Like said.

But she also enjoys discussing education matters with her sisters and the three toss ideas back and forth.

"I can talk to teachers in my school but they're teachers in my school. We're kind of experiencing the same thing," she said. "Even when (Sara) was going to school she would mention something I'd never heard of before but obviously it's a current issue if they were teaching it."

"Sara comes to both of us with questions like I did with Elizabeth when she was already teaching and I was going to school," Abby Buse said. "It's just nice to have somebody to bounce your ideas off or even your frustrations."

Buse's time at home with her family has proven even sweeter as she knows it will end in July. She and her fiancé plan to marry on July 10 and then she will move to Missouri where he is stationed with the U.S. Air Force.

"Being back here has given me time not only to plan the wedding, but to just spend time with my family, which has been great," she said.

She also has gained more experience in the classroom, a place she never doubted entering.

"I think of my choice to be an education major more like a calling," she said. "I don't think I really had to think a lot about it. For me, I think this really was what I was meant to do."

The Indiana Association of Colleges for Teacher Education members think so as well. She was one of five Indiana State students who in April received an "Outstanding Future Educator Award."

But for now, she's concentrating on finishing her student teaching. As a student teacher, she observes veteran teachers, learning classroom routines and tips to help her when she will have her own class.

Buse feels prepared for leading the classroom, even during student teaching, in part because she participated in the TOTAL (Teachers of Tomorrow Advancing Learning) program. In that program, ISU students spend a semester prior to student teaching in a classroom with a veteran teacher.

"At Indiana State, they get you into the classroom as soon as possible when you start your teaching courses," she said. "I think that's just connecting the knowledge you learn in an ISU classroom with the real world by going out into the field and being able to experience it there too."

At Nancy Hanks, Buse put her learning into practice by questioning the girls on what they were reading.

"I ask questions to help you understand what you're reading and to help you make predictions," she said.

After the students put their reading books away, Buse moved through the classroom helping students as they finished problem solving worksheets.

"I've been so blessed to have so many wonderful experiences at the schools I've been placed at here," she said.

Photos: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/825081804_Scas7-L.jpg - Sara Buse, a senior elementary education major at Indiana State University, discusses a reading assignment with fifth graders at Nancy Hanks Elementary School in Santa Claus, where Buse is a student teacher. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/photos/866092395_yiakg-L.jpg - Sara Buse (second from right), a senior elementary education major at Indiana State University, poses with (left to right) her sister Elizabeth Like, father Scott Buse, mother Sandy Buse and sister Abby Buse in the family's Huntingburg home. ISU education majors can now do student teaching anywhere in the state and many chose to do so in or near their hometowns. (ISU/Tony Campbell)

 Contact/Writer: Jennifer Sicking, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-7972 or Jennifer.Sicking@indstate.edu