North Central College - Naperville, IL

Education alumni share advice with current students

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Shane Gillespie, Class of 2004, English teacher

March 7, 2011—Students majoring in education at North Central College get to learn from excellent faculty members on a daily basis and from highly respected teachers in the field. Recently, four alumni of North Central’s undergraduate and graduate education programs returned to campus to share their expertise and advice with students in the 242 Classroom Management Techniques in Secondary Education class taught by Kristine Servais, associate professor of education.

“Your North Central education will get you ready for your first year of teaching,” Servais told her class of 18 students. “Hearing from these top teachers who are successful in their classrooms is part of that preparation. After your first year, it’s up to you to adapt, learn from others and continue to grow as a teacher.”

The guest North Central alumni were:

  • Matt Blue, physical education teacher and boys basketball and volleyball coach at Waubonsie Valley High School. He will complete his master’s degree in educational leadership and administration in fall 2011.
  • Steve Jeretina, social studies and physical education teacher and boys basketball coach at Plainfield South High School, earned his master’s degree in educational leadership and administration in 2010.
  • Yvonne Palmer ’09, science teacher and girls tennis and track and field coach at East Aurora High School.
  • Shane Gillespie ’04, English teacher and boys track and field and cross country coach at East Aurora High School.

The panel of speakers met with students as a group at the beginning and end of the class, then broke into informal small groups in different classrooms where students could interact with the teachers and ask questions centered on classroom management.

Blue stressed the importance of a positive attitude and environment. “The environment is what you make it as a teacher. It’s not the school’s, but the teacher’s responsibility to be a positive influence and set the environment.” Continue to be creative and innovative in order to reach the kids in your class, he said. Don’t just get by; do more.

Far right, Steve Jerenta, social studies and physical education teacher and boys basketball coach, earned his master's degree in 2010.

Jeretina shared many practical tips. Here are a few:

  • Have every minute of your class planned so students are engaged and don’t have a chance to be bored.
  • When you have a problem, use others who can help. Deans and social workers are trained and qualified to deal with many issues, so use them.
  • Even though cell phones are not permitted in class, students still try and use them. At the beginning of each class, have students remove all backpacks and stuff off their desks to keep them from hiding or reaching for their phones.

Palmer felt one of the most important ways to maintain order in the classroom is to develop relationships with your kids. “Sharing your life and giving a positive attitude on things that happen helps them see you as a real person and shows how you handle life. They respect you more when they know you,” she said.

Gillespie said it’s important to be prepared, but “don’t be a robot. Be a human being and realize students are human too.” He told students to stay away from negative people and colleagues who talk negatively about students or other teachers. Find the positive ones to connect with and be one of those positive people.

Michelle Lozada ’11, English major with secondary education, attended the alumni panel and said, “It was great to hear from people who are in the field now and are young. They remember what it was like to start out and had some great tips on how to manage and structure your classroom.”

Ben Killam, who’s taking the class as part of his high school certification and earned his bachelor’s degree elsewhere, said the panel discussion came at just the right time for him. “I start my student teaching in two weeks, so this was very timely. It was so worth it to take time during the class to hear from those who are out and doing it. They had really good advice and tips.”