My name is Elli Parker and I am a senior Elementary Education major from New Hartford, IA. Before coming to Denver to complete my student teaching experience, I didn’t realize what a luxurious lifestyle I lived. I have a working vehicle, an education, supportive parents, food to eat, and a place that I call home. This may not sound extravagant to many, but compared to some of my students at Tennyson Knolls Elementary, I am living a life of luxury. In the small Iowa community that I grew up in, my classmates and I all had very similar upbringings; middle class white families from a small supportive community in rural Iowa. This is not the case in Arvada, however, where many of my students come from poverty-stricken dysfunctional homes.
It didn’t take long for me to realize some of the adversity that my students faced every day. Whether my cooperating teacher, Stacey, told me directly about specific situations, my students told me stories, or I saw a student struggling to communicate because of a language barrier, it was obvious to me that these kids dealt with hardships on a daily basis. The most common issue in my classroom, and the entire school, is language. Many students came straight from Mexico to Denver and spoke little to no English. Some have been here for a year or more, but others have only been in the U.S. for weeks or months. A few of my students do not have cars, so if they miss the bus, they have no way of coming to school. One of my students has missed 42 total days of school this year. All of the students in the school receive free breakfast, lunch, and snack, and two of the students in my class take a backpack home every weekend filled with food. Another very common issue is moving. Students often talk about moving from house to house, apartment to apartment, or moving in with family members.
After reading this, you may envision my classroom or school as somewhat of a depressing environment. Surprisingly, this is not the case at all. I am amazed every day at how positive, funny, and hard working my students are. School is definitely a safe haven for many of them; a place of structure and stability that many of them do not get at home. Students who speak little English are able to rely on bilingual classmates who graciously translate when needed. These children have truly touched my heart, and I look forward to coming to school every day. Wartburg West has allowed me to experience a lifestyle and diverse experience that would have never been possible had I not participated in this program. I am so thankful for the time I was able to spend in Denver and lives that I was hopefully able to touch in the classroom.