Student teacher experiences passion for teaching

Alicyn Aalderks has always loved children, so going into the teaching field was a natural.  As she says, she "gets to start and end her day with smiling faces that are eager to explore and learn new things."

Student teacher
UNI student Alicyn Aalderks does her student teaching in Bonnie Ruebel's first grade class at Cedar Heights Elementary.

Aalderks is a University of Northern Iowa senior from Adel, Iowa majoring in early childhood education, with a minor in early childhood special education.

Aalderks is completing her 16-week student teaching assignment. Her first eight weeks were spent in a first-grade classroom at Cedar Heights Elementary School in Cedar Falls, Iowa, with veteran teacher Bonnie Ruebel, and her second eight-week assignment is at the Area Education Agency 267 (AEA 267) working with families and children with special needs.

UNI students complete 80 to 90 hours of field experiences before their 16-week student teaching assignments – 14 weeks is the minimum required by the state. UNI students have more than 700 hours of teaching experience when they graduate.

"Each UNI teacher taught me something new…I was able to learn from their real teaching experiences," says Aalderks.

UNI student teachers also have a UNI coordinator who oversees their teaching and works with students to fine-tune their teaching.

Kristi Powers is one of those coordinators working with Aalderks and Ruebel. In her role, she mentors student teachers to work through challenges they may face. She helps them improve their teaching. She observes them and takes note of their skills and knowledge in classroom management, instructional strategies, assessment, content knowledge, decision-making, lesson plans and professionalism.

Powers works with cooperating teachers to evaluate their student's progress and plans for continued progress.

"The cooperating teachers I work with are incredible mentors and UNI is fortunate to have a strong partnership with them," says Powers.

Ruebel is one of those incredible cooperating teachers who has worked with UNI student teachers for 23 of her 33 years teaching, including overseeing many students in their field experiences. 

She does this because she likes working with young people and seeing their excitement in the classroom. But she learns a lot too.

"The student teachers motivate me to keep my teaching fresh; they share their new ideas and enthusiasm, and they come out of the UNI program knowing they can make a difference in a child's life," says Ruebel.

"I feel UNI does an outstanding job getting theses candidates ready for the teaching profession. The UNI students have an amazing work ethic."

Student teacher
 Aalderks enjoys student teaching because her students are "eager to explore and learn new things."
One teacher's philosphy


Ruebel feels her job as a mentor teacher is more than just explaining school policies, regulations and school procedures -- it's to help the UNI students solve problems, learn how to work with the students, parents and fellow teachers in a collaborative and positive environment. But beyond all things, her most important job is to model good teaching practices.

Ruebel's teaching philosophy is simple – she believes every student should be provided an educational setting to develop to his or her full potential.

"My husband and I are both educators. We are proud to have two daughters who have gone into the education field at UNI.  We know that not everyone can do what we do, but we have no regrets.  We have had so many rewarding moments in our career and feel blessed that we have touched so many lives.  There have been many changes over the last 33 years, and there will always be changes.  That’s what makes teaching so great!  But the thing that never changes is each child’s potential to learn, and what makes teaching so challenging is being able to find that potential."

Aalderks is influenced by Ruebel's philosophy and passion for all students.

"Bonnie has taught me to set high expectations and to make students give their best at all times."