Near the end of sophomore year, senior Sarah Rusaw discovered what career she wanted to pursue in the future. Spending time with younger children and being a leader for them was her passion.
“I want to be a positive influence and a light for kids,” Rusaw said.
From there on, she took steps to prepare herself for becoming an educator. Rusaw decided to dedicate some of her senior year to being a cadet teacher to give her the skills she will need for her future.
Cadet teaching is a class that is offered to juniors and seniors. Students get the opportunity to shadow a teacher at a Perry Township middle school or elementary school. The cadet teachers go to their assigned schools during third period on red and white days.
Rusaw chose to shadow her third and fifth grade teacher, Christina Lawrence. Lawrence currently works as a science teacher at Jeremiah Gray Elementary School. Rusaw has admired Lawrence ever since she sat in her classroom.
“She’s my favorite teacher ever,” Rusaw said. ”And I knew by choosing to shadow her, I would learn a lot about being a good teacher.”
When Rusaw enters Lawrence’s classroom, she says she is greeted by grinning third graders who enjoy her as an addition to their classroom community. When there are some days Rusaw can’t be at Jeremiah Gray, she says students often come up to her the following day and express how much they’ve missed her.
“Going to the elementary school is the highlight of my day,” Rusaw said. “Whenever I have a rough start to my morning, the kids always cheer me up.”
Social studies teacher Daniel Jones has Rusaw as a student this year. Since the first day, he says he has admired her enthusiastic and bubbly attitude. He thinks Rusaw goes above and beyond his expectations when it comes to participation and her eagerness to learn. He says he understands why the kids are so excited to see her and thinks her personality fits perfectly in a classroom setting.
“She impacts people around her in a positive way, and it excites me that she gets to do that for young kids,” Jones said. “As a parent, I would love to have her teaching my kids.”
As a cadet teacher, Rusaw not only observes Lawrence, but she also participates in teaching the kids. During their science experiments, she helps them complete different steps and assists Lawrence when something goes wrong.
Rusaw says that Lawrence has taught her the importance of having patience when she becomes a teacher. When little mishaps occur, Rusaw has learned to remain calm.
“She’s taught me how to see the positive side of slip ups,” Rusaw said. “She doesn’t let them affect her and keeps stress levels in her classroom low. That’s a good quality to have.”
Lawrence says that Rusaw has also inspired her and admires many of her qualities. She has enjoyed seeing her grow from an elementary school kid to an upbeat and motivated adult. Lawrence feels that Rusaw is helpful around the classroom and is able to understand the third graders very well.
“While cadet teaching, she observes carefully what the students are doing and uses those observations to support them in their learning,” Lawrence wrote in an email to The Journal.
As Rusaw continues her cadet teacher journey, English teacher Dawn Fowerbaugh continues to give her advice and encouragement. Rusaw calls Fowerbaugh her school mom. Since Rusaw’s junior year, Fowerbaugh has helped her with college plans and has given her guidance for her job interests.
Today, Fowerbaugh pushes Rusaw to create relationships with her future students. She wants Rusaw to support them academically, but also let them know that they’re supported and cared for.
“When Sarah becomes a teacher, she should focus on her students as a whole person, not just their skills,” Fowerbaugh said. “We, as teachers, also want students to be good people when they leave here.”
After she graduates, Rusaw plans to attend Ball State University and major in elementary education. She hopes to be a teacher that students feel free to come to with anything. Her relationships with her teachers growing up have inspired her to continue that bond with her own students.
“The relationships that I’ve had with my teachers has had a great impact on my life, and I want to make the same impact on kids in the future,” Rusaw said.