When education student Abbeigh Rainwater graduates from University of the Ozarks in a few short months, she knows beyond a doubt that she will be ready for the teaching profession.
Rainwater, a senior early childhood education major from Jonesboro, Ark., is currently serving her second semester as an intern in a first grade class at the Clarksville Primary School. While most university teacher education programs require just one semester of student-teaching, the Ozarks program requires two full semesters --- Internship One and Internship Two --- in the classroom before education majors graduate.
"I think the thing that has prepared me the most to become a classroom teacher is the amount of time I’ve been able to spend in the field working with students," said Rainwater, who will graduate in May. "I know there are so many things that I still need to learn, but I believe I’ve already experienced things and handled situations in the classroom that most college students haven’t done. This is simply because of the amount of time I have been able to be in the classroom."
Rainwater said she has wanted to be a teacher since she was a young elementary-age student herself.
"I would play in my room and pretend to be a teacher," she said. "My class was my stuffed animals. I even labeled the books on my bookshelf to create a library. As I was growing up, teachers always let me help around the classroom and told me that I was going to grow up to be a teacher. But it wasn’t until high school when I got to baby-sit my niece during my summer breaks that I really solidified my choice to become an educator. I loved working with her to help her learn her alphabet and some simple words. Helping a child learn is the best feeling in the world."
Her classroom experience has already taught Rainwater a lesson about understanding how her demeanor and personality can determine success in the classroom.
Senior Abbeigh Rainwater credits the teacher education program at Ozarks for preparing her to be a classroom teacher.
"Anyone who knows me knows that I have a very outgoing personality," she said. "I’m always willing to speak up and am generally the loudest of any group that I am a part of. However, it is very, very hard to be louder than 20 elementary school students. I have had to adjust to being a more docile teacher, and using the fact that I am not speaking at all to get the students’ attention rather than trying to get above the noise. It has been a real shift, and I often forget to use silence as a tactic. But it really does work."
And, there are always light-hearted moments, like at the beginning of the morning when the students stand to sing the National Anthem.
"It’s my favorite part of the day," Rainwater said. "They don’t know any of the words to any great degree, so they make up their own. Not only that, they sing their little hearts out. One student in particular absolutely wails every morning. It’s a great way to start off the day. Honestly, I enjoy just fellowshipping with my students. They tell the funniest stories. I spend at least a few minutes of every day just letting them talk to me and tell me whatever they want. Not only does this help build great relationships, but it also gives me a much-needed laugh every day."
Rainwater credits her education professors for helping her achieve her life-long goal of becoming a teacher.
"The education program has some of the most caring and affectionate people you’d ever hope to meet," she said. "From the moment I stepped onto campus and declared my major, these professors have been my number one allies. I have spent many hours in each of their offices expressing my concerns and being mentored. Each and every one of them are experts at what they do, and that is very evident. However, they are more than just professors, they are my second moms and dads. They have coached me through my entire experience and made sure that I was ready to go out into the field."
"It was an absolute God thing that I even ended up at Ozarks, and I wouldn’t exchange my experience for the world. I have made relationships with some of the most wonderful people who have forever changed my life. I love this school so much and am so overwhelmingly proud to be an Eagle. Even though my time is drawing near here, this campus will always be a second home to me; somewhere that I know I am always welcome and that will hold a very special place in my heart for the rest of my life."