Most undergraduate students face many of the same anxieties: difficult classes, long hours of studying and worries about finding a job after graduation. But at least 31 seniors in the College of Education are not worried about finding that perfect job.
As secondary schools across Kansas and the United States face a shortage of math instructors, K?State will graduate one of its largest classes of secondary math education students in May.
Larry Scharmann, chairman of the Department of Secondary Education, said in an average year the College of Education awards degrees with math certifications to about 15 to 18 students. In May, as many as 31 future math teachers might walk across the commencement stage.
“With the shortage reported throughout the state, some people might call that a bumper crop,” Scharmann said.
One instructor will remember this class not just for its size, but the promise these future teachers show in making a difference in students’ lives.
Lori Martini, instructor of the Math Methods course at K-State, a class taken by secondary math education degree candidates before they student teach, worked closely with the 31 students set to graduate in the spring.
“I’ve got student teachers who are very strong in their social skills, and they’re strong role models for kids,” Martini said. “That’s what excites me about this group – not only are they strong with content but they are strong with their interpersonal skills.”
Last Thursday, four seniors in secondary math education met at Old Chicago to chat about their first week of student teaching.
Jessi Linder, senior in math education, was one of those students. She said the students meet often, and it was the friendships that grew between her and her fellow classmates that kept her focused and excited about becoming a teacher.
“We all banded together,” Linder said. “They are what I’ll remember from K-State. We saw each other almost every day in class, and we studied a couple nights a week together. That’s what kept us going – we were a group, pushing each other along. I know it wouldn’t have been as much fun without them.”
Joey Heersche, senior in math education, first enrolled at K-State as a psychology major, but an experience between his first two semesters made him consider a change in curriculum.
“I went back [home] over Christmas break,” Heersche said, “and my high school wrestling coach let me help coach the team. After talking with him I realized that what I wanted to do was teach. Math sounded appealing because I was good at math, and I knew it would get me a job, and coaching because I love working with kids.”
Heersche said his course load at K-State kept him busy, but the help and advice of another teacher motivated him.
“At K-State, Dr. [Andrew] Bennett was a huge influence on my decision to be a math teacher,” Heersche said. “He kept us going and provided help when we needed it.”
Bennett is just one member of a faculty praised by its students. Graham Ratzlaff, senior in math education, said his department’s skill in training future educators is its main strength.
“K-State has done a great job preparing me,” Ratzlaff said. “The teacher education program at K-State gives you a lot of experience in the classroom, which I think is valuable. They can teach you about theory, but if you don’t experience the classroom yourself you’re not really going to know what to expect.”
Many of the 31 seniors will spend their last semester as student teachers, shadowing local secondary instructors. Tyler Stubenhofer, senior in math education, teaches at Wamego Middle School.
“Student teaching has made me think about classroom management,” Stubenhofer said. “Every day is different, and in other jobs every day is the same.”
Stubenhofer, whose mother is a math teacher, said this day-to-day variety appeals to him. Soon he will have a classroom of his own, and he and his classmates will get the chance to interact with students – and maybe some future teachers – each day.
“It will be rewarding to know I’m making a difference in the world,” Stubenhofer said.