Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Cheyanne Saddler on Embracing Fear

The summer before my senior year, I visited Wartburg for the first time. At the end of this visit, I knew two things for certain: 1) Wartburg was going to be my home away from home come fall, and 2) I had to make sure I spent a semester in Denver. Even though Denver has been a part of my plan from the very beginning, I was terrified to move to Denver. Nearly 14 weeks later, I am amazed at how much has changed.

Fear is by definition, “an unpleasant emotion caused by the belief that someone or something is dangerous, likely to cause pain, or is a threat.” Nothing seemed more threatening than moving 982 miles away from my family and friends. I do not think I am alone when I say I was afraid to move to Denver 14 weeks ago. In fact, looking back on our group’s first encounters, it was obvious that we were nervous and even afraid of the semester that lay ahead.

Denver changed the way I look at fear and being afraid. Before coming to Denver, thinking about the future terrified me. I spent the fall semester convinced that I no longer wanted to teach, and I was afraid that I had just “wasted” 4 years of school. I feared life after graduation and all of the unknowns that came along with the end of my college career. I feared that I wasn’t going to be good enough to land that dream job we all talk about. I was afraid to live in a city. There were a lot of things that I was afraid of and it was starting to take a toll on me.

We all know that fear can limit you and your vision, but I have also realized that it is a necessary part of the journey. Denver helped me see that good things come out of fear. Fear has the ability to keep you focused on the past or worried about the future, but when you take your fear and acknowledge it, you realize that right now, you are okay. Every time I acknowledged my fears and made the decision to surpass them, I gained strength, courage, and confidence. This newfound courage and confidence led to me believing in my talents, my abilities, and my self-worth. Denver helped me transform my fear into freedom, and for that I will always be grateful.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Maddy Faga: Kids are Kids

It’s hard to believe I only have one more month to call the unique city of Denver home. Three months ago, I would have told you how nervous I was to move out here. With only weeks left, I am now realizing how much I don’t want to leave my students, the mountains, or Sliceworks Pizza behind. 

I am currently finishing up my student teaching in Denver. I have had the amazing opportunity to learn from two experienced teachers at two public schools on the south side of Denver. My first placement was at Lincoln Elementary in a special education classroom for Kindergarten - 5th graders. I am currently finishing up my second placement at University Park Elementary in a 4th grade classroom.

I’m not sure I could ever explain all I have learned about teaching, or myself, in the last 11 weeks. I can tell you that my students have taught me more than I could ever learn from a textbook. As a teacher, you think that you will teach your students, but I know they have taught me more, not only about teaching, but about life in general. Moving to Denver and completing my student teaching here has given me an urban teaching experience, but what I have learned most is that whether you are in small town Iowa, or the Mile High City, kids are kids. Sure, they come from different backgrounds, and have different experiences, but before anything else, they are kids who are trying to learn about the world they live in. Building relationships with students who have experiences different than my own has been such an amazing opportunity, and I will continue to do this in my future classroom.

I would say the most rewarding parts of my experience in Colorado have been building relationships with my students in the short time I have been here, watching my students desire to learn about things around them, and seeing students’ growth in just 7 weeks. As I finish my time here in Denver, I am looking forward to teaching in Colorado after I graduate, and continuing to learn from everyone around me!

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Audrey List: Witnessing Privilege First Hand

I have always been aware of my privilege as a white cisgender female, but coming to Denver has made me realize just how lucky I am. My name is Audrey List, and I am a senior social work student interning at 9 to 5 Colorado, a policy advocacy nonprofit focused on issues facing working women and families. As a social worker, I am constantly looking at my privilege compared to the clientele that I work with. I can afford stable housing, could easily get a job, attend any school I want, go into any store I wanted to, and have no problem putting food on the table. Nowhere is this more evident than my own office building. I am the only white female on staff at 9 to 5; everyone else is a woman of color who has experienced oppression first hand. We share our office space with a lawyer’s office of all white males. There have been many difficulties in working with these individuals because they treat my coworkers with bias. Last week they parked in one of my coworker’s parking spots and would not answer their door. The only way the car got moved was when I, the white female, went and talked to them. This is unacceptable and frustrating to know that individuals who are supposed to protect the innocent and vulnerable are treating people of color this way. 

Another instance where I recognized how privileged I am is learning client stories related to their severe maintenance issues. 9 to 5 is working on passing a bill that protects the rights of tenants with severe maintenance issues like lack of hot water, no heat and many others. When talking to one client, I learned that she had been living without heat for three weeks and all the maintenance people did was give her a space heater to heat her entire 2-bedroom apartment. With a 6-month old baby, this heating issue quickly turned into a health issue. Both mother and daughter were developing cold-like symptoms due to their lack of adequate heating. To make matters worse, her rent was raised to an unaffordable rate and her ex-boyfriend tried to beat her up in the parking lot. I cannot imagine living under these conditions and as a social worker, I have done my best to help find resources for this women and her child. Tenants should be able to have a warm, safe home. After leaving her freezing apartment, I was never so grateful for my apartment where the heat was maintained, the water worked and I felt safe. Being out in Denver has opened my eyes to how some people are forced to live and has strengthened my passion for wanting to advocate with and for them. I hope to bring these new skills back to Iowa and on to my graduate degree program in Milwaukee, WI. Affordable housing is an issue in every major city, and I look forward to seeing how I can use my background in social work and my resources based in privilege to help the most vulnerable populations.

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.