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Student teachers learn and teach in the classrooms of Rehoboth

By Julie Ooms

Dordt College’s education majors have a choice to make before doing their student teaching: Will they do their student teaching locally, in schools near Sioux Center, or will they decide to do at least part of it off campus? Many student teachers choose to venture outside of northwest Iowa. And a few—this year, those few were Rebekah Oudman, Kim Beimers, Leesa Schmidt, and Michelle Vis—felt called to go a bit further outside their comfort zones to the schools in and around Rehoboth, New Mexico.

Student teachers who go to Rehoboth teach either at the Rehoboth Christian Schools or in the public school system in the nearby city of Gallup, according to education professor Cella Bosma.

Michelle Vis was one of four students from Dordt's education program who opted to do their student teaching in Rehoboth or Gallup, New Mexico.

Michelle Vis was one of four students from Dordt's education program who opted to do their student teaching in Rehoboth or Gallup, New Mexico.

“Most of the students, especially those in the public school system, come off the reservation. Many of them have had a completely different life experience than the student teachers,” Bosma adds. “Student teaching at Rehoboth Christian and the area schools is definitely an experience outside the Dordt ‘bubble.’ The student population there is much more diverse than in the Dordt area, poverty is a huge issue, and the tribal religions are still very strong in those areas.” As they teach, Dordt student teachers like Oudman, Beimers, Schmidt, and Vis need to gain a sensitivity not only to different kinds of learners but different kinds of people. “Student teaching in Rehoboth helps students understand what people God’s world is made up of,” says Bosma.

“It was hard to relay the message to the students at Rehoboth that we truly cared about them, because the trend is for people to come for only a short time, serve the campus, and leave,” says Beimers, who taught a multi-age fourth and fifth grade class at Rehoboth Christian. “In reality, that is what we did. We came for eight weeks, served the campus, and left. But I hope that my impact on those students was greater than that,” she says.

Vis, who taught struggling readers in grades one through six at Rehoboth Christian, says, “There were tough times when I found out that some of the kids I taught didn’t have beds to sleep in, or that the kids who struggled the most didn’t have parents who could help them or were willing to help them. That was probably the hardest thing.” The four women came away from their time at Rehoboth, however, with a new perspective on the diversity of learners they are called to teach.

Bosma’s hope is that teaching in the Rehoboth area is more than just an “experience” for student teachers. “I hope student teaching at Rehoboth helps these students to see that there’s a diversity out there that teachers need to be sensitive to,” she says. “College students—and all of us—need to understand that the world is not all about us. I hope these students were able to not just learn about their diverse students, but with them and from them.”

The four women who student taught at Rehoboth this past spring certainly would say that they have done so. “I poured my heart into my student teaching because I truly had a love for the school and my students,” Beimers says. As teachers and Christians, these four students were able to bless and be blessed by the students they taught, however briefly.