Transforming Aspiring Teachers into Educational Leaders

Campus to Classroom

This story is featured in the Fall 2018 edition of the HPU Magazine. Discover below how HPU’s Stout School of Education provides future teachers with an endless variety of experiential learning opportunities. 

During her senior year of high school, Mallory Heffelfinger uncovered a passion for teaching.

It happened in fourth-period calculus. Her teacher was unexpectedly called out of the classroom and summoned Heffelfinger to the front of the room before stepping out.

“This is what I was planning to cover today,” she said, pointing to the open page of a textbook. “Will you lead the class through these problems?”

That made an impact on Heffelfinger.

“I remember the trust that came from knowing that someone else saw the potential in me,” she says. “That validation was all I needed.”

Her next step was finding the right university — a place that would continue to push her outside of her comfort zone and further her passion for teaching.

She visited HPU and felt at home.

“I went to a private high school and was used to a small environment,” says Heffelfinger. “When I walked into the Stout School of Education, I knew that’s where I could flourish. I met with students, faculty and staff members in the school, confirming that I wanted to be a part of that program.”

Heffelfinger says that HPU’s School of Education embraced her ambition, which isn’t something she found elsewhere.

“I had a lot goals for my future classroom. At HPU, they asked, ‘How can we make that happen?’ and ‘Let’s see what options are available to make that possible.’ I knew HPU was a place that would allow me to grow in the direction I wanted.”

And grow she did.


Growing a Graduate Program

Heffelfinger quickly found a mentor in Dr. Dustin Johnson.

“He was extremely invested in my journey with the understanding that numerous factors played into my performance,” says Heffelfinger. “When I doubted myself, he was the first email or text I sent. And he was immediately meeting with me and encouraging me to push forward.”

Soon after arriving at HPU, Heffelfinger realized her desires to someday move beyond the classroom and into an administrative role. She loved teaching — that was easy to confirm. During their first year at HPU, education majors are immediately placed inside a classroom, completing an internship under the guidance of a local teacher.

But Heffelfinger also liked the idea of becoming a leader in the field of education.

“I approached Dr. Johnson about starting a fifth-year program for teachers who wanted to earn their master’s degree with the intent to move up to an administrative position,” Heffelfinger says.

Johnson fully supported the idea, and working with Heffelfinger, they made it happen.

The School of Education already offered B.A. to M.Ed. programs in other tracts, including elementary education and special education.

In summer 2017, the B.A. to M.Ed. program in Education Leadership welcomed its first cohort.

The hybrid course, consisting of online work and campus meetings, allowed Heffelfinger and her classmates to complete their M.Ed. while continuing to teach as first-year educators.

In May, with one month left in her inaugural year as a first-grade teacher, Heffelfinger crossed the stage at HPU’s Commencement with her master’s degree.

With that second degree came the excitement in knowing that she had helped build a program. And better yet, she helped better the school she’d come to love.

“I knew that ordinary was never going to be okay — outside the classroom or inside the classroom,” says Heffelfinger. “A growth mindset has always been present in the School of Education. When I talk to people who graduate from other programs, they admit that they’re just going through the hoops to get their teaching license. HPU believes that yes, you’re gifted and talented in the skill set, but there’s always more room for growth and development.”

The School of Education knows that stepping outside of one’s comfort zone is an important part of growth. Sometimes, that means packing your bags for a trip around the globe.


Cultivating Global Educators

Ryann Coughlin was nervous, but she had to be confident. South Africa

She was more than 8,000 miles from home, walking into a classroom that beared little resemblance to ones in the U.S.

She took a deep breath and walked through the doorway, taking her place at the front of the classroom. Heads turned toward her in attention.

“Hello,” she said to the class. “I’m Ms. Coughlin.”

The students broke into smiles, and Coughlin found her confidence.

In the spring, the School of Education launched a partnership with Orange Grove School in Tarkastad, South Africa — a global pairing that allows HPU education majors to test their skills on an international level.

Coughlin, a senior education major from Long Island, New York, took part in the trip.

She jumped at the opportunity. She understood the importance of seeing how students learn in different cultures.

Before HPU students took the lead at Orange Grove School, they spent three days immersing themselves in the South African culture and shadowing teachers at the school, learning the differences in teaching styles.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” Coughlin says. “The classroom setting was completely different than the typical U.S. setting, from the way they interacted with one another, to the methods they used for learning content. But, with some quick adaptations, we were able to combine their techniques with our lessons. That’s a skill I’ll undoubtedly apply in my future career.”

Dr. Leslie Cavendish and Dr. Sarah Vess, professors in the School of Education, led the trip. While they prepared the students with tactics for acclimating to a new culture in the weeks leading up to their departure, both were still surprised by how seamlessly the HPU education majors blended with the students.

“This inaugural trip and the annual trips that will follow were intended to give our students a much more global view, not of just education, but of people and their life experiences as well,” says Cavendish. “Having returned, I can say that we succeeded in that. Our students now have a strong understanding of how to adapt to different teaching environments and how to teach various types of students in tailored ways. I have no doubt that carrying these experiences into an interview will give our educators an edge.”

And while the values of an adventure across the world are evident, back on HPU’s campus, students in the School
of Education find everyday opportunities to garner a holistic education.


‘I Can Do Great Things Here’

Brianna Beard heard about HPU through a close friend and loved seeing photos online. When it came time to tour colleges, Beard had to see the school for herself.

During her tour, Beard stopped by the School of Education to see the facilities. She ended up spending 45 minutes with Dr. Mariann Tillery, the school’s dean.

Beard didn’t have an appointment, but Tillery gave her the time.

“If they are going to treat me with such care and attention as only a prospective student,” she thought, “imagine what it’s going to be like once I’m a student.”

Later, while sitting near the windows during lunch with her parents, she looked out over campus and began to dream.

“I can be happy here,” she told her parents. “I can do great things here.”

Today, Beard is an elementary education major who spent this past summer teaching in France and Spain. She returned to HPU in the fall for her senior year and is obtaining her master’s degree as part of the B.A. to M.Ed. elementary education program with a focus on STEM.

Her inspiration to enroll in the program? Dr. Shirley Disseler, chair of elementary and middle grades education and STEM education program coordinator.

Known on campus as the “Lego Lady,” Disseler is a certified Lego trainer, teaching students how to bring creativity into the classroom.

That’s what Beard aspires to do. She’s dedicated time to researching and sharing unique teaching methods. In the spring, that research paid off.

Beard flew to Las Vegas with Disseler and presented her research at the National Social Science Association’s annual conference.

The paper’s title is a mouthful: “A Comparative Analysis of Teaching Cultural Core Beliefs Across Settings in Public Education Pre-K Through Fifth Grade.”

But her research didn’t go unnoticed.

She was recognized as having the best undergraduate paper at the conference. Her 13-page paper has now been published in the association’s national journal.

That happened thanks to Disseler.

“I didn’t think it was possible in my life to get published in a national journal at 21, but things aren’t out of reach, especially here,” Beard says. “Dr. Disseler pushed me toward that, and that all shows me that I was right when I chose this school.”


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