Student Teaching Experience
By: Savannah Keitzer
May, 21, 2019
Elisa Russ (’19 ag and life sciences education) student taught at Audubon High School under the supervision of Brittney Elmquist (’03 ag and life sciences education, ’08 MS). Scott Smalley (’05 ag & life sciences education,’06 MS, ’11 PhD), director of student teaching program for agriculture and life science education majors, said he knew Russ would be a good fit in Audubon.
“Elisa is very passionate about agriculture education and will be able to share this passion with her students,” said Smalley.
Teaching and Learning
When placing student teachers, Smalley seeks cooperating teachers who can provide opportunities for students to grow and develop. Students should seek cooperating teachers who have skills sets they do not yet have.
“Student teaching is a very valuable experience,” said Russ. “Elmquist holds her students to a high standard, but also is willing to meet students on their level. She teaches to every student and adapts to each student when necessary.”
She has taken note of the success in Elmquist’s classroom. Elmquist and Russ bring a variety of ideas and concepts to the table when considering teaching principles. They can both challenge and learn from one another.
“One of the most important lessons I learned was to adapt to students learning ability,” said Russ.
During her experience at Audubon High School, she worked with a student with an Individualized Education Program, or IEP. She learned to adapt to the student’s needs by modifying the lesson to fit his learning style. She said it was challenging at first.
“It felt rewarding when the student understood the content being taught,” said Russ. “I was excited about the student’s success and learning opportunity. I am looking forward to using this skill in my own classroom.
Russ stressed the importance of asking questions of her cooperating teacher.
“Asking questions is part of the learning process. Each day new questions present themselves. Getting those questions answered is the best way to get insight and improve day-to-day,” said Russ.
Russ said she learned there is never a slow season for agriculture education teachers.
“This is a concept I thought I understood growing up while interacting with other agricultural education teachers like my dad and sister, but I didn’t fully understand until I began student teaching. There are many opportunities for an agriculture education teacher, and those opportunities must be added to a program with a balance,” said Russ.
According to the Journal of Agricultural Education, the burnout rate for agriculture education teachers is increasing. Russ explained that she has learned the importance of establishing boundaries and limits.
“I realize that things may have to vary year to year in order to implement everything I want to include in a program I am leading,” said Russ.
Growing up with parents as educators inspired Elisa Russ to pursue a career in education. Her dad and sister teach agricultural education, and her mother is a special education teacher.
“I was inspired by watching my parents. They have very purposeful work, and are always bettering other people,” said Russ.
That inspiration brought her to Iowa State University. The Iowa State faculty were a huge part of Russ’s experience in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. She says she appreciates the support faculty gave her when pursuing opportunities outside the classroom with FFA and agricultural education.
“I learned a lot though my coursework at Iowa State. I encourage students in agriculture education to get into the classroom early and often. My most beneficial experiences were not necessarily as a student in class, but when I could apply the principles I learned in the classroom as an educator,” said Russ.
Russ will soon be implementing the teaching principles she learned at Iowa State in her own classroom. She graduated in May and will begin her teaching career in Clear Lake High School in Clear Lake, Iowa. The school will be launching an agriculture education program in August, making Russ the district’s first agriculture education teacher.
Starting in a new program will give Russ the opportunity to design the program. She has already written course descriptions, so students can enroll in her classes.
Russ says she knew agriculture education was the right fit for her after leaving school one day. As she pulled out of the parking lot and rounded the curve by Albert the Bull, an iconic symbol of the town of Audubon, she had this overwhelming feeling of confidence in her career choice.
“As I left school, I was just overwhelmed with joy, knowing I was on the right path,” said Russ.