By Lara McCambridge ’11
Drury University taught me how to make powerful connections with others to better myself as a student and an educator. Without the relationships and experiences that I had, I would not be where I am today.
During my time at Drury University, I pursued a degree in education. I wanted to give students the same feeling of success and value that my professors gave me. As I went through my classes, I formed relationships with my classmates as well as my professors. While I appreciated these relationships at the time, I had no idea how significant they would become in the future. Knowing my professors by first name and being able to go to them during times of need was invaluable. Everyone at Drury was genuinely interested in their students’ well being—striving to empower future teachers to make a difference in society. The education professors led by example, consistently referencing the importance of building life-long relationships.
When I graduated, I began working for Springfield Public Schools at Boyd Elementary International Baccalaureate World School. Boyd Elementary is located near Drury and is considered a partner in education. While I was thrilled with a job in kindergarten, I was not able to foresee the challenges and struggles I was about to go through.
Boyd Elementary is a high poverty, high mobility school. It is located on the north side of Springfield and caters to the local neighborhood kids, as well as students who are living in the Missouri Hotel. This high mobility population means that Boyd has students coming and going throughout the school year, making it nearly impossible for teachers to have the same class of students all year long. Furthermore, it has a very high percentage of students on the free and reduced lunch program, allowing students in poverty to qualify for a free lunch everyday. While Boyd has a revolving door of students, the teachers are dedicated professionals who strive to empower each and every student.
When I started at Boyd Elementary, I had no idea how much support I would need during this first year of teaching. Coming into a new environment and experiencing poverty firsthand was much more difficult then I could ever imagine. Even though my time as a student was as perfect as possible, I experienced countless teaching nightmares throughout the year. For example, with the revolving door of kindergartners coming and going, I didn’t have a handle on my classroom management. The students seemed to be running the classroom, leaving me feeling helpless. Often, I came home crying, feeling like I couldn’t control 25 kindergartners by myself. It was as if I was a bystander watching the kids take control. This is one teaching nightmare that no one wants to experience, especially day after day.
However, I reached out for help. I never hesitated to go back to my roots for guidance and found myself constantly emailing and calling my professors at Drury for advice. Even though I was no longer a student at Drury, Dr. Laurie Edmondson came to my rescue with open arms. Dr. Edmondson took time to meet with me and devise a plan of action to implement in my classroom. One aspect of teaching we tackled was classroom management. Together we reflected and made changes in my classroom to help me build a successful classroom management system that was effective and engaging for kindergartners. At the time, Dr. Edmondson suggested that I pick one challenge at a time to overcome and see the difference I could make. One step at a time, I made it through my first year of teaching.
It was this ongoing relationship and continued mentorship with Dr. Edmondson that allowed me to overcome my struggles and become successful. With reflection and change, I was able to have a wonderful second year of teaching, solidifying my love for the classroom and education. I was much more confident and was able to take the strategies and skills I learned in Drury’s education program and apply those to my instruction. Without the mentorship and relationship with my professors, I do not know if I would have continued my profession in education.
In the spring of my second year of teaching, Dr. Edmondson and the Drury faculty nominated me for Missouri Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (MACTE) Outstanding Beginning Teacher of the Year. I was so honored that Drury nominated someone who overcame struggles and continued to learn and grow after college. Drury did not give up on me, or my dream of being a successful teacher, but helped me transition into my own classroom.
I am proud to say that I am a Drury alumna. Now, I truly understand the Drury difference. The powerful connections and invaluable experiences that Drury offers have changed my perspective on teaching and learning, making me the educator I am today.