Thursday, March 22, 2018

Caroline Madsen: Relationship Building is the Key to Success

Growing up in the Twin Cities, I was used to the hustle and bustle of a city. Going to Wartburg in Waverly was definitely a change of pace for me and I loved every minute of it. Even though I love the pace of Waverly, I have always been drawn to Wartburg West. I first came out here as a freshman in human relations. I spent a week in a classroom at Lincoln Elementary and enjoyed every minute of it. After having a great experience out here I was always thinking about a way I could come back. When I found out that I could student teach out here, I jumped at the chance. I love Denver and all of the unique experiences it has brought me.

My name is Caroline Madsen, and I am a fourth-year elementary education major with endorsements in K-8 math and K-8 science. I am currently at Place Bridge Academy in a sixth-grade science classroom. I just recently finished my first seven weeks at Steele Elementary in a second-grade classroom.

One of the best lessons I have learned while out here is that positive connections with other people help you succeed. When you cultivate good relationships with the people you work with, they will do everything in their power to help you succeed. I have had a unique experience out here in Denver because I sprained my ankle three weeks into my first placement. What this meant for me was that teaching was going to be a lot harder and there were going to be some extra hurdles for me to overcome. I fully believe the relationships I developed with my teacher and the other people at Steele Elementary is one of the main reasons I succeeded, especially right after my injury. They took time out of their day to make sure I had the tools I needed to succeed. On top of that I knew I wasn’t alone. They would always come to check in on me and offer all of the support I needed. Luckily enough I am now out of my boot and I plan to continue to create positive relationships with the mentors I work with. Although my time here at Wartburg West has been short, I know that Denver will always have a special place in my heart.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Michael Hegelheimer: Independence and Meeting Community Members

During my time in Denver, I have been interning with OptiMiser Energy, an energy auditing software company, as a remote software development intern for 24 hours a week. My primary role has been continuing the development of the OptiMiser sponsored certification system which verifies competency in the use of OptiMiser residential auditing software to generate accurate energy models and measure specifications. Outside of my internship, I split my time taking two classes, staying on top of my soccer offseason program and exploring Denver when I can find the time. My classes involve interviewing community leaders who are working to influence either activism or sustainability issues in the Denver Metro area and participating in the community through different organizations.

Examples of people that I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in the sustainability space include Jerry Tinianow, Denver’s Chief Sustainability Officer, Janet Burgesser, the program manager of Certifiably Green Denver and Dan Raine, a senior city planner with Denver Public Works. With regards to the community organizing space, I’ve had the pleasure of learning about activism and advocacy in the Denver metro area from Kamau Allen, a Community Organizer at Together Colorado, Jordan Garcia, the Immigrant Ally Organizing Director for Coloradans For Immigrant Rights a subsection of American Friends Service Committee and Peter Severson, the director of the Lutheran Advocacy Ministry Colorado, a subsection of the ELCA.

My decision to apply for the Wartburg West program came about due to numerous positive recommendations I had received from previous program participants and me wanting to try something outside of my comfort zone. I’m glad to say that I’ve definitely grown as a person during my time in Denver on top of having made valuable connections with both community members and other students. I most definitely recommend this program to any Wartburg student looking to challenge themselves and try something new.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Peri Benna: The Art of Denver

I am out here in Denver for student teaching, and my first placement was for K-5 Art. I soon realized how involved the school was in the art program, which was so unusual for me to experience. Usually, art is brushed to the side and is the first thing to be cut in budget meetings. Here, art and culture are very much appreciated.

Around the city, there is art everywhere. There is the art museum, which is in walking distance from the apartments. That museum is a must-go; it is truly one of a kind! Another bonus is that on the first Saturday of every month the museum has free admission. Also, on the first Friday of every month, it’s First Friday at the Sante Fe art district. At this district all the galleries open their doors and have an open house. There’s tons of food, drinks, art and much more! I went last month and was blown away at the talent. The art was amazing and the cool part is that you can talk to the artist because they are there. I went to this one shop that was primarily candles. I bought a few things and found out that they offered classes on candle making. There is also another art district, the design district. I haven’t been to this one yet, but I’ve heard that it is full of awesome stuff and has murals on all the buildings.

Being an art education major, I think this culture and environment is refreshing and eye opening. There are tons of things to see and do here. I am just getting started!

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Alyssa Christopher on Interacting with Students and the Importance of Education

Wartburg West has far exceeded my expectations in all aspects of the experience. I am a fourth year Elementary Education major, with a middle school math and science endorsement, as well as reading endorsement. This semester, I am completing my student teaching placement at Place Bridge Academy. Denver, Colorado has already provided me with numerous opportunities to grow, and I look forward to the remainder of my time here for any additional experiences that the city has to offer.

Currently, I am placed in a sixth grade science classroom at Place Bridge Academy. This is a refugee school of 1000 students, consisting of students from 60 different countries and speaking over 40 languages. Tarena Zake and her sixth grade science class have blown me away. After four weeks I was allowed the opportunity to completely take over her classroom, which is giving me a fulfilling experience as a future educator. The students have embraced learning from me while also giving me the opportunity to learn from them. They offer me an experience in which I can learn about other cultures, perspectives, and how to educate students that come from more diverse backgrounds.

Tarena has been a pivotal point in my experience at Place Bridge Academy. Each day we sit down to talk about my progress in the classroom, considering where I started and where I need to continue to grow. I have never had someone in my professional life dedicate as much of the personal time as Tarena has dedicated to me. Not only am I learning about educating students, but I am learning about the politics of school, the importance of self-care, and the value that an educator can have on the student, no matter what their age.

Along with the relationships with my students and Tarena, I have had the opportunity to build relationships with other teachers and staff. Each week, I have the opportunity to participate in school wide professional development. Often this includes sessions that fellow teachers have requested, or instruction that the district of Denver Public Schools requires. On Tuesdays, I also join the Sixth Grade Team for meetings, in which we discuss students of concern and how we can all make their educational experience better. The opportunities that Place Bridge Academy have provided me have already impacted the type of teacher that I will be, and in my last few weeks, I hope to leave as lasting of an impact on the school as they have on me.

With such an excellent experience in my placement, it is not hard to believe that my overall experience in Denver, Colorado has been amazing. The diversity, accessibility, and scenery draw me to city life, despite my experience growing up in a small town. Currently, I have been given many opportunities through the Wartburg West Urban Lifestyles course, including our retreat to Leadville, MLK Day Marade, and the Mosaic. Outside of these experiences, I have also gone to Breckenridge for the National Ice Sculpting Competition, as well as saw the Swon Brothers perform at The Grizzly Rose.

Our experience at the Mosaic has had the biggest impact on my experience outside of my placement at Place Bridge Academy. The Mosaic are centered around interfaith dialog. We were given the opportunity to talk with individuals who, in one way or another, were listed as terrorists in the country of Turkey. I had the opportunity to speak with three women who were put on the list, not for endangering others or conspiracy, but for being involved with education. As a future educator, this infuriates and saddens me. I have spent my life learning, and my adult life learning how to educate others. Education is not the problem, but it is very much the solution.

As I round out my experience at Wartburg West, I am reminded of how important education is. My love of education has never been thwarted by those who deemed it less important. On the contrary, this has only reassured me that I am in the correct profession. All people deserve access to education. All people deserve a brighter future than the one that they are born with. My passion for education has been challenged and strengthened during my time at Wartburg West, and I look forward to using this new perspective in my future classroom.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Andrea Leisinger: "Great things never come from comfort zones"

It was February of my junior year and I had put off the Wartburg West application for quite some time. For those of you who know me, know that I am very family oriented. Every chance I have, I spend it with my family. So, I kept putting the application off because I didn’t want to leave Wartburg, family, friends, and everything I knew, behind, for four months. About a week before the deadline, my parents and I were talking about all the opportunities and connections that I would have if I applied, so I did it. I applied.

The first semester of my senior year flew by and suddenly it was Christmas break and I was packing up my belongings to move 12 hours away. The weeks leading up to my departure were bittersweet. I had never lived more than 15 minutes away from home before, so to say I was a little nervous was an understatement. It was January 2, 2018 and while my dad was packing up the rental car, I was inside balling my eyes out saying goodbye to my golden retriever pup, Murphy (I know, pathetic, right?). I then hugged my mom and my brother, told them I’d see them in a couple months, and we left. The trip was long, especially when we drove through Nebraska, but I kept telling myself, “great things never come from comfort zones."

Fast forward to now, February 3, 2018. I’m sitting in my apartment writing my first blog post, thanking myself that I took that step outside my comfort zone and applied to Wartburg West. I started my senior social work placement at Mount Saint Vincent (MSV) on January 5th and one month into it, I can proudly say that I want to pursue a career in school social work. Every day, I work with kids who have been neglected, traumatized, or abused in some way, and as a result, face serious behavioral and emotional challenges. Although some days are tougher than others, the kids at Mount Saint Vincent have found a special place in my heart and I thank God, every single day for the opportunity to be a light to the kiddos at MSV.

Looking back, I’m so happy that I took the risk and made that step outside of my comfort zone. Sure, it was scary and I had doubts, but if it wasn’t for that step, if it wasn’t for the people who encouraged and supported me, I would have never found my calling. While living in Denver, I have felt lonely, scared, unsure, and have had doubts. But, I’ve also felt a lot of love, kindness, support, and happiness. As a reminder of God’s goodness, I have Psalm 46:5 posted above my bed. God is within her, she will not fall. After reading this, I hope you feel encouraged to take the risk and take that first step outside of your comfort zone because once you do, God will bless you abundantly.

Friday, February 2, 2018

Ariana Gremmels Olson on Denver: A City Full of Opportunities

This past weekend, I traveled to Breckenridge, Colorado to see the amazing snow creations at the International Snow Sculpting Championships with a fellow Wartburg student and two wonderful Wartburg alums. While stuck on I-70 in Saturday ski traffic, one of the alums asked me what my favorite part of Denver has been so far. This was a tough question because I have enjoyed so many aspects of Denver. How was I to choose just one? Honestly, I didn’t. My answer to her difficult question was “the opportunities.”

In the three short weeks I have been in Denver, I have filled my days with so many opportunities to experience Denver and Colorado. From participating in SNOWGA, which is yoga on ice at the downtown ice rink, to downhill skiing for the first time during our weekend in Leadville, to attending the National Western Stock Show and Rodeo, Denver has been full of opportunities I would not have otherwise had in Iowa. It’s been a blessing to embrace these opportunities, and I look forward to the future opportunities Denver offers.

As I think about what Denver has already given me, it is hard not to think about all that Wartburg has given me in my four years. Being a senior in my last semester at Wartburg, I have so many fond memories from the last four years. Many of my favorite memories stem from the options and opportunities Wartburg makes available. From going to Nicaragua and New York City for two different May Term classes to studying abroad in Italy for a semester to now living in Denver, CO through Wartburg West, the possibilities Wartburg has given me have allowed me to see the world. These experiences have helped me grow as a student and global citizen.

Looking ahead to the months to come in Denver, I am already planning on engaging in many more opportunities that come my way! Some of these already include plans to attend the Boulder Symphony, cheer on the Denver Nuggets when they play the Golden State Warriors and, of course, more travel. Whatever the opportunities may be, I look forward to experiencing what they have to offer.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Herbert Brown III: Internship Experience and the Colorado Scenery

I am currently interning at the St. Francis Center and it has been a perfect fit after the first couple of weeks. I am still learning a lot but I can also say that I have adjusted just fine in this short period. I am at two different sites during the week, and those are the day shelter and employment center. At the day shelter, I assist guests and clients with their mail, storage, and other needs they may have. At the employment center, I have been working with homeless people and people who are ex-offenders with job search, applications, and resumes. The guests and clients have responded to me in a positive manner and I am looking forward to working with them as they become self-sufficient and achieve stability. Interning at St. Francis Center has made me more appreciative of the blessings that I have received. I think that is why I want to potentially work with homeless people after college. I believe that the goal is to help people reach that stability that has eluded them for periods of time.

I was born and raised on the west side of Chicago, and you would think that the city life is almost the same no matter what. Denver is probably one of the more unique places to live and that is because of the scenery. I was here back in 2015 for my beginning field placement during May term. I was nervous because I was in a new place and I was alone. This was the farthest that I had been away from home. Once I got moved in and adjusted to my apartment, I decided to walk around to get a feel for the area. Immediately, I fell in love with the city and it was because of the mountains in the distance. I was in awe simply because I had never seen them in person. I told myself that I would be back soon and I was going to go up to Rocky Mountains. I would be able to achieve that goal when my classmates and I traveled to Leadville. This was one of the rare occurrences where I felt like a tourist because of the sight-seeing that I did while I was there. Being up in the mountains allowed me to feel at peace and do some self-reflection. The best part about being there is the silence, with the exception of the sounds of nature. It is definitely the setting for clearing your head, making a huge life decision, or simply being more in tune with a spiritual being. Going up there made me appreciate the Wartburg West program even more than before. I probably wouldn’t have had this experience this early in my life without Wartburg West. I plan to go back up to the mountains soon and I might even climb one. Coming back to Denver has helped me become more open minded in terms of doing things outside of my comfort zone. After spending time in the Rocky Mountains, my interest in nature related activities have increased. I want to be able to create memories here that cannot be replicated elsewhere and that will last a lifetime.