Kelsi Spain began her college career studying business, but she soon realized that her heart longed instead to major in Elementary Education.
“I don’t want just to teach academic subjects,” says Spain, an NIU College of Education senior from Pingree Grove, Ill. “I want to change my students’ lives.”
Spain is already doing exactly that.
During her professional teaching placement semester this spring, she spent half of her time in an elementary school classroom and the rest of her hours as an AVID tutor in U-46’s Streamwood High School.
The AVID program encourages teachers not to simply feed facts but to empower students to learn on their own, a method she followed while tutoring high school students in whatever topics or homework they brought with them.
“We kind of guide our students through collaborating together so they can figure it out for themselves,” Spain says. “I’m just there to facilitate, and if they’re really stuck, I’ll step in.”
Although she plans to teach in the elementary grades, she is confident that her immersion in AVID has prepared her to provide “a unique, challenging and engaging education” to her future students: “The two worlds are not so different.”
Her exemplary work, which she continued daily even after NIU’s semester ended May 12, has resulted in an “Intern of the Month” award for Spring 2017 from NIU Career Services. Seven recipients are chosen throughout the calendar year; three of those will receive Intern of the Year scholarships.
“You get to see those students every day, and it’s amazing to see how they change. They’re about to embark on this next chapter of their lives – and, with me being a college student, I can give them that first-hand experience,” she says.
“Being in the classroom with students so close to me in age gave me a confidence boost to recognize that I can be viewed as a young professional,” she adds, “and that I have what it takes to relate to students of all ages.”
Jennifer Johnson, director of Teacher Preparation and Development for the College of Education, supported Spain’s application. Johnson has observed Spain’s “professionalism and leadership in multiple contexts and settings.”
“Ms. Spain has been characterized by her integrity, dependability and strong interpersonal skills,” Johnson wrote. “I am confident that she will continue to excel at meeting the academic expectations of her coursework while making meaningful contributions to the campus community and in our partner school districts.”
Patricia Maynard, AVID coordinator at Streamwood High School, also endorsed Spain’s work.
“Kelsi did a great job in providing the structure and facilitating the questioning that goes with this type of tutorial process. It helps to have a strong base knowledge in difficult subject areas – i.e., calculus, trigonometry and physics – and Kelsi had that,” Maynard wrote.
“There is also an expectation that our college students act as role models for our students. Again, Kelsi’s ability to connect to her students was an asset,” she continued. “I think she will do a great job as an educator- she has the right combination of intelligence, confidence and attitude.”