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My #EducatorFirst Volunteer Story: Carrie Reineccius

My #EducatorFirst Volunteer Story: Carrie Reineccius

Edmentum provides us with 16 hours of volunteer time to serve in our community. I recently used some of those hours to spend time with two of my teacher friends. Mrs. L and Mrs. C work at a private Christian school in the southwest suburbs of Minneapolis. It was an eye-opening experience to see all that goes into each day of a teacher’s life.  

I spent the first part of the day helping the classroom of 1st grade teacher Mrs. C. She originally had 24 fidgety first graders in her class but was able to split her class into two after the holiday break. Even with just 12 students, it would have been difficult for me to manage. Mrs. C, with her many years of experience, had the room running smoothly from the very beginning of the day. I helped Mrs. C administer the Renaissance Star Math® tests to her students. There was a limited number of tablets available to her room, so while five students worked on tests, the others completed worksheets on spelling and writing or worked with Mrs. C on their reading skills. She rotated students between three activities, and I helped wherever she needed me.

I first began by assisting the students with logging in to their tests. Some knew their login info; others couldn’t remember it (I had a cheat sheet that I kept misplacing around the room!). Some students took forever to type in their login name or couldn’t type in their login at all. Students were all over the place—some locking their laptops unintentionally, logging out completely, or struggling to use the touchscreen. Safe to say, I was overwhelmed!

Additionally, I helped the students who were working on the worksheets. I felt very “scattered” as I was helping students—I don’t know how Mrs. C does it on her own! I know her as a friend first, so it was fun to see her in her element and observe the tricks she used to try to keep her students quiet and focused. One routine she used to settle the children down at the beginning of the day was to give each of them a bean. If you “blurted,” you had to return your bean. Any beans left over after that initial period were put in the “good” jar, and when that filled up, the room got a special prize. 

For the second half of the day, I went across the hall and helped Mrs. L’s 4th grade class. There were two combined classes that day for their lesson in language arts. First, because it was the National Day of Prayer and the school is private, the students spent time studying Bible verses and prayer on different topics. After that, we moved on to discuss the book the students were reading, A Long Walk to Water, which is about the “lost boys” of Sudan. I was surprised to see the students reading a book on such a heavy and difficult topic.

I asked Mrs. L about the book and how she got the approval to teach it in class. She explained that she wanted to teach the students about a real-life topic, rather than read a classic novel of fiction like The Swiss Family Robinson. She talked with the administration, the school librarian, the other 4th grade teacher, and one of the parents at length who has a child who came from Ethiopia, concerned about what the child’s reaction might be. They all gave her permission to use the book. It was quite powerful knowing that these students are reading this book and that they can address what they are seeing and hearing on the news through a refugee story. Observing Mrs. L. use different strategies to help the students think critically and creatively was a fascinating experience for me.

While with Mrs. L, I completed some administrative tasks related to the Renaissance Star exams that opened my eyes to the amount of manual work educators must fit into an already full day. Additionally, our team is currently working with Renaissance (we will be integrating with the Star soon assessments), so it was great to see them in action in both classrooms.

I only spent four hours with the teachers, but I learned a lot throughout this whole experience and hope to get a chance to go out again, perhaps to help them close the year out or maybe kick off the new school year next fall.

My first job out of college was as a teacher, and I came to realize very quickly that it wasn’t for me. This experience with my teacher friends reminded me just what special people teachers are, and I will never forget it!

Want to read more about how Edmentum is dedicated to putting educators first? Check out this recent blog post detailing how we keep an #EducatorFirst mindset when designing our programs