Lauren Leifheit never heard a peep from the students in her first classroom.
“I’ve been interested in teaching for as long as I can remember,” says Leifheit, a pre-elementary education major from Sycamore. “Even when I was a little kid, my parents would buy me little teaching kits, and I’d teach my stuffed animals.”
Jamie Hoban, a vision major from a tiny town near Manitowoc, Wis., developed a passion for special education during her six years as a volunteer at an Association for the Developmentally Disabled summer camp.
Visual impairments, however, is an inspiration from a relative.
“My cousin is a teacher of students with vision impairments. She works for a school district, going from school to school working with the kids with visual impairments. I shadowed her and I just loved it,” Hoban says. “She gets really close with her students because she doesn’t work with all the students in a classroom. It’s great getting on that personal level with kids and really getting to see their progress.”
The two NIU College of Education freshmen and seven of their first-year classmates, all of whom are pursuing licensure as teachers, are among the inaugural group of Dean’s Achievement Scholarship recipients.
Chosen on the basis of stellar academic performance in high school, each receives a $2,000 scholarship for the 2016-17 academic year with the possibility of renewal for the next year based on grade point average.
Joining Leifheit and Hoban are pre-elementary education majors Rachel Bicksler, Megan Hayes, Anna Mangini and Jacinda Starr; pre-early childhood studies majors Paetyn Borhart and Sevyn Schuemann; and physical education major Lee Bell.
“Student Services was looking for ways to increase recruitment efforts for COE undergraduate licensure programs. We were thrilled to be able to offer an incentive for high-achieving high school seniors to select us as their school of choice,” says Margee Myles, director of the college’s Student Services office.
“Our first group of scholarship winners represents an academically elite group,” Myles adds, “who we hope will connect to the college and who be ambassadors for our amazing programs.”
Hoban’s path to NIU also comes courtesy of her cousin, an alumna of the Department of Special and Early Education’s renowned Visual Disabilities Program.
“She loved it here, so I toured and it just felt right. It just seemed like the place for me,” Hoban says. “There are no schools in Wisconsin that offer this program, and in Wisconsin, there’s a really big need for teachers of students with vision impairments. School districts are legally required to have someone there, and there’s an extreme shortage.”
Receiving a Dean’s Achievement Scholarship is an exciting honor, she says.
“When I went to the meet-and-greet, it was really nice to meet some of the major people in the College of Education and get on a more personal level with them. It’s kind of a good group to get into,” she says. “I also liked meeting some of the other students who received the scholarship. You can tell they care about their grades, so it’s nice to be around people like that.”
For Leifheit, the choice of NIU was simple. It’s close to Sycamore, obviously, so she continues to live at home and commute.
But the College of Education also boasts a “great” reputation, she says.
“Once I start taking more of the education classes, I want to learn about how to diversify my lesson plans in a fun and interesting way,” says Leifheit, who also has taught at a summer camp and spent her senior year at Sycamore High School as a TA.
“I want to be someone who is able to change how the classroom works and not have it just be routine – ‘sit down and learn.’ I’m just really hoping that I can inspire kids to be the best they can be,” she adds. “I’ve had a lot of teachers in my family – my aunt works at an elementary school; my great aunt was a teacher – so I think it was passed down. Even my mom said that if she could go back to school that she’d love to be a teacher.”