Success Story | Mykenna Yesnes & Whitney Zahn, Elementary Education

Answered By: Mykenna Yesnes (Right in picture) and Whitney Zahn (Left in picture)

What are your positions? What school is it for?
We are currently practicum students in Clara Barton Open School in Minneapolis.

How did you learn about this opportunity?
Three practicum blocks are required for the undergraduate Elementary Education program. Next year as seniors, we will finish the other two practicum blocks (reading and special education). For placements this semester, we ranked schools we preferred to work at. Mykenna knew the principal of Barton and really wanted to work in his school.

Describe your positions.
As an introductory practicum, we don’t teach in front of the class yet, but rather act as a cooperating teacher when there is work time. Students see us as another instructor in the class and ask similar questions that they ask their teacher, Penny. Much of the introductory practicum is about observing the main instructor and getting a feel for classroom.

What do you most enjoy about your position? What are some of the challenges?
The kids are hands down the most enjoyable part of this position. Being able to help students find the answer to a difficult math problem or work through a paragraph they’ve been slaving away on is the most rewarding feeling…cliché, I know! But, it’s so true! Often times, students forget my role as a teacher and treat me more as a friend. When I come in the morning and when I leave in the afternoon, many of my girls will race over to hug me, which is not how they would treat their teacher. It’s difficult to maintain a professional role in the classroom while creating relationships with the students we have come to know over the past couple months.

How does your position fit with your long-term career goals?
Mykenna: This position directly reflects what I imagine myself doing down the road. I’m currently placed in a mixed 3rd and 4th grade classroom, which is my ideal grade to teach in the future. I absolutely love the school I’m placed in. Barton is one of the best elementary schools in Minneapolis and I’d be extremely lucky to work in a school of its caliber in the future.
Whitney: My experience at Clara Barton elementary school has been rewarding in a variety of ways. I have become more aware of the variety of schools I have the potential to teach in and the different goals each school has set for their students. Working in a combined third and fourth grade classroom was quite daunting at first but I have become accustomed to the classroom environment and could not imagine helping out anywhere else. In my future classroom, I hope to work with 3rd or 4th graders because of my experience at Clara Barton. I have gained a great deal of confidence from this semester in the classroom and I look forward to the experiences and challenges that lie ahead for me.

During your job search, how did you make yourself stand out to employers?
Fortunately, when being placed at a school site for each practicum, there isn’t much competition between other undergraduate students. Generally speaking, students are able to work at their 1st or 2nd preferred school site. However, in the future when applying for jobs, it will be extremely beneficial having the amount of experience the University of Minnesota has provided their undergraduates. After graduating from the masters program, University of Minnesota students are somewhere between 5-7 times more qualified than others due to the rigorous and integrated program.

Do you have any tips to share with other students about your experience?
Bring a notepad to school and take notes! It is a great gift to be able to observe teachers who’ve been teaching for 20+ years and you’ll want to document it. Ask for their advice and insight, as they’re the best resource for your future. Create great relationships with your cooperating teachers, so you can revisit their classroom in the future or gain more knowledge from them!