Clarksville, Ark. --- The University of the Ozarks' Pat Walker Teacher Education Program recently received a glowing testament to its preparation of future teachers.
Three of the program’s early childhood education majors received a rare perfect score on the Praxis II Principles of Learning and Teaching Test this summer. The three students who scored 200 out of 200 were seniors Kayla Brown, Belinda Birrer and Ronni Rauschenberger. The three will be recognized for their accomplishment with a certificate from the Educational Testing Service.
“It is a very difficult test and students are usually just happy to pass it,” said Dr. Glenda Ezell, chair of the Education Division. “It is considered by most test-takers to be the most difficult test the teacher graduates must take and it is unusual to have a student make the top score. To have three students make the top score is highly unusual. We are extremely proud of these students.”
All three students attributed their success on the two-hour test to the teacher education program and to the professors at Ozarks.
Ronni Rauschenberger, a Benton, Ark. native, is majoring in art and early childhood education.
“Going into the test I was told it was very difficult and, to be honest, I was terrified,” said Birrer. “But once I started reading the questions, I thought to myself, ‘I know this.’ Our professors had really prepared us well for the test. I was shocked when I found out that I had scored perfect. It just shows the level of education in the teacher education program here.”
Brown, who is earning a minor in psychology, also credited her teacher education professors, as well as other professors on campus.
“The professors in the education program are superb,” she said. “They range from the no-holds-barred, hard core, work-your-dinner-off professor to the nurturing, realistic workload professor. They have made a big difference in my ability and knowledge. Even in my minor I felt the push to succeed. I believe the entire campus sets the bar for success.”
Rauschenberger, a Benton, Ark. native who has a double major in art and early childhood education, said the combination of theory and hands-on experience in the teacher education program was extremely beneficial in taking the Praxis II test.
“They teach you something and then you go out and do it,” she said. “It’s not just from a book. It’s learning and then doing, learning and doing. That’s the best way to learn.”
Belinda Birrer, a senior early childhood education major from Yellville, Ark., is currently serving her student teaching in a first grade class at Lamar High School.
Rauschenberger, who has a learning disability and is enrolled in the university’s Jones Learning Center, said her desire to become a teacher stems from her own early childhood education.
“I did not have a good educational experience growing up,” Rauschenberger said. “I was told all my life that I wasn’t smart, that I wasn’t going to college and that there was no reason to try to teach me. I want to make sure that young students don’t have those same types of bad experiences.”
Rauschenberger believes her art background makes her a much better teacher.
“I think it makes me more creative and open to ideas when it comes to teaching,” she said. “Young children often learn better through shapes, visuals and sounds and those are the types of things I like to incorporate.”
Birrer, a senior early childhood education major from Yellville, Ark., is currently doing her student teaching in the Lamar School District. She also works part-time at a daycare in Clarksville. Birrer’s interest in education began at an early age when she would help her mom, who was a third-grade teacher.
“Growing up I would help her set up her classroom and would see her working with children and I knew then that I wanted to be a teacher,” Birrer said. “Later I began to work in a church nurseries and that’s when I fell in love with it. I’ve never wanted to be anything else than a teacher.”
Kayla Brown is a senior education major minoring in psychology.
Brown’s perfect score on the test is even more impressive considering that she juggles a full-time student teaching assignment with a part-time job as a bank teller. She is also a wife.
“It is a delicate juggling act between teaching, work, married life, running a household and attempting to have a semblance of a social life,” she said. “My motto this semester is to do all that I can wholeheartedly and give 100 percent all the time. I am not perfect and everything doesn’t always get done. On occasion the dishes sit in the sink, or it takes me longer to grade papers than I’d like, but at the end of the day I think back to see if I’ve made a difference and given my all. Of course, I couldn’t do any of this or nearly try to keep up with my schedule with out my Savior and Creator. God gives me the strength to make it.”
Brown said she wanted to become a teacher in order to make a difference in young people’s lives.
“I wanted to become a teacher because I love seeing people learn,” she said. “I have a passion to help make our society more educated and better educated. It does not matter to me at this moment if I teach preschool or third grade, I care about making a difference for our future. Everyone has a teacher, from a doctor to a mail man to a fast-food worker, they all had to attend school. I want to be the teacher that makes the difference and helps them succeed.”