UA Students Prepare to Become Elementary School Teachers

When Carmen Gallegos walked out the front door of her Abilene Texas home during her elementary school days she often left knowing her mother, Mary would be at work as a nurse when she returned home.

Gallegos’s father, Paul was often absent while serving tours of duty in the United States Air Force.

Due to her parents’ inconsistent presence at home Gallegos often walked out her front door thinking about which teacher would support and comfort her that day.

Now Gallegos, a UA elementary school education major wants to be the support system for other students.

“Teachers are an extension of home caregivers Some children see their teachers more often than their families,” Gallegos said

She calls her public education experience meaningful and effective. However, she does not think her experience is resembled around the United States.

Gallegos wants teacher’s voices to be heard because they can sense the needs of children more accurately than politicians can.

She hopes to persuade state politicians to cover school supply expenses for districts with students who cannot afford them.

Gallegos also wants art and music programs to remain in elementary school curriculums. She says those subjects have a connection to classroom success. However, she does not yet have a plan on how to increase school funding.

As a public school student, Gallegos’ school district provided free breakfast and lunches to their students however, the food they served was not always nutritious. Nutrient dense food service is another area she hopes to address during her career.

Although, Gallegos was satisfied with the academic help her school district provided but she says they did not consider social problems.

 “Getting help needs to be less stigmatized. You get picked on more if you tell on the person that is hurting you,” Gallegos said.

Alexa Stiller is a UA sophomore and elementary school education major who was inspired by her elders.

 “Growing up, every adult figure in my life had a positive influence on me,” Stiller said

Stiller’s best elementary school years came in third and fourth grade when Julianne Tubolino was her teacher at an elementary school in Chandler Ariz.

Stiller and Tubolino reconnected when Stiller took an early childhood education class during her senior year of high school.

Stiller credits Tubolino with her understanding of the elementary education profession.

“Teachers who develops a mutual respect with their students are the most successful,” Stiller said.

Stiller adds that the best teacher sees their positions as an extension of the caregivers their students have at home.

“If students do not know that you care and are invested in them they will not want to listen to you,” Stiller said.

UA requires 60 hours of observation in a classroom setting. During the spring of 2017 she began fulfilling the requirement. She already sees the differences in the students from one grade level to the next. Her first discovery came after observing Tubolino’s class in high school.

“In third and fourth you are becoming more independent but you are still really creative,” Stiller said.

Her first observation for college credit came in a Tucson fifth grade classroom, where she realized the dynamic between teacher and student.

 “With the fifth graders I had to be sarcastic so, they would listen to me, laugh, and, {the students} would respect me more,” Stiller said.

She says a student’s effort is based off the amount of encouragement a student receives at home. Stiller adds that parents should communicate the greater purpose of going to school beyond individual assignments.

Parent involvement is one of the biggest indicators for a successful school,” Stiller said.

From an administrative perspective, Stiller wants the pressure on teachers to get their students to perform well on the Ariz. Merit state test to be reduced.

“School districts are competing for state funding.  It separates the top schools from the bottom. There is almost know way to catch up when you are on a bell curve,” Stiller said.

Elisabeth Reil is a UA senior majoring in Learning Literacy and Leadership. Upon graduation, she hopes to earn her master’s degree in education to become an elementary school teacher.

Reil was born with Spina Bifida, a birth defect where her spinal cord did not close completely while she was in her mother’s womb. She uses a wheelchair as her primary source for mobility. Some side effects of Spina Bifida caused her to struggle in public school in Albuquerque NM where she moved with her family from Vietnam at 9 months old.

She was pulled out for reading and math during elementary school. However, as she reflects on her experience Reil wishes she had not been. “I would have learned better if I was in the same classroom as my peers,” Reil said.

It put her beyond for the rest of her K-12 education. In seventh grade Reil’s reading level matched a first grade student and her math skills reached third grade proficiency.

During her freshman year of college, Reil worked as a teacher’s aide in her mother’s school of employment. Reil feels she was only hired because of her mother’s connection to the school.

Another time Reil got a job with her local girl scouts organization where she began her membership at 5 years old. The job also left her dissatisfied.

“ I would like to get a job on my own without having connections. It is not fair to me because they{the employer} is not hiring me for who I am,” Reil said.

She had a few job interviews where she explained the accommodations her disability requires any of her employers to make. Reil wants other females to display resilience as she does when an employer is not willing to help.

 “Show people that you can do stuff and get somewhere that you are not giving up,” Reil said.

Reil says conquering her math learning disability is her biggest challenge ahead.

“If I can barely understand how to do it, how can I teach {my students}?” Reil said.