21 February 2014
Keck, along with fellow seniors Ashley Spraker and John Williams, are the first Indiana University Kokomo students in a program started by Dean Paul Paese, and offered in collaboration in IU’s Global Gateway for Teachers. They leave for Auckland, New Zealand, this month and will return in early May.
Keck, from Kokomo, noted that it is summer in New Zealand, and they will be there for the start of the school year.
"Usually you student teach in winter, leading up to the end of the school year," he said. "We get to experience what it is like to start a school year as a teacher. I want to learn just as much from my students and they want to learn from me. It's an exchange of culture."
They had a choice of student teaching in Costa Rica, Ecuador, or New Zealand. They selected New Zealand because the people speak English, and the fact that it would be the most difficult country of the three to get to when not part of a program.
"We also thought of the awesomeness level of New Zealand," Williams, who is from Fairmount, said. "It's the action sports capital of the world. They have snorkeling, lots of caves and mountains, and great places to visit."
They are among 20 American student teachers going to New Zealand, and as the first from IU Kokomo, they want to perform well so others can have the same experience, Spraker said.
"We are well aware of how lucky we are," she said. "We are grateful to Dean Paese and the faculty for organizing this and giving us the opportunity to have this experience."
Paese wants them to be the first of many IU Kokomo's future teachers who student teach overseas.
He will accompany them to New Zealand, and stay for the first several days, to visit them at school and perform their first classroom visits.
"I think this will be a good experience for them, and will be beneficial to them as they begin their teaching careers," he said. "A school administrator is going to see this on their resume, and think, 'That is the kind of teacher I want, who is going to take a leap and step out of the box.'"
All three also had student teaching experiences in north central Indiana. Keck taught sixth graders at Northwestern Elementary School. Spraker, from Cutler, was a special education student teacher at Blue Ridge Elementary in Frankfort. Williams was a student teacher in English at Western High School.
They will student teach in areas around Auckland, and live with faculty or staff from their schools.
All three hope this experience will make them stand out in the competitive job search.
Keck said the experience could be an advantage finding a job in one of the local international schools.
"If nothing else, you show that you are willing to go out of your comfort zone," said Williams. "You're on the other side of the world. The flexibility you learn is going to be huge. Everything you will experience will be new. I'm interested to see what they're reading in English classes, what they focus on in grammar. It gives you a broader experience."
Spraker said it also demonstrates an ability to adapt and learn. She is excited to be in New Zealand, which is a leader in children's literacy.
"They focus more on whole language, while we focus more on phonics," she said. "I am curious to see how they teach beginning readers, so I can gain new ideas for my own classroom."
Indiana University Kokomo serves north central Indiana.