Ten years ago, Carianne Chapman (2015, language and literacy) walked into Irmo Elementary as a senior year College of Education student. She was on the way to meet her mentor, Morgan Rohrbaugh and spend the semester learning classroom management, teaching techniques and how to build relationships with students.
“I looked up to Mrs. Rohrbaugh so much. She had such a peace about her classroom,” says Chapman. “She created a family environment, which is what I strive to do in my classroom now — modeled after how she did it with our students when I was an intern. She really loved what she was doing every day.”
Fast forward to 2021, Chapman now works down the hall from her former mentor and collaborates with her daily. She also serves as a mentor to a current elementary education student, Hannah Guess. She is building that same important relationship that she relied on to begin her teaching career.
“Mrs. Rohrbaugh had fun with her kids and I think that is a huge element in creating a successful classroom environment,” says Chapman. “She had a really great feeling in her classroom that I wanted to emulate in mine. Now, she and I teach the same kids and we bond, share and collaborate. Being colleagues is really awesome!”
In Guess’s mind, Chapman has done an excellent job of bringing her own community-focused mindset to her classroom. She spent the first few weeks of her internship observing Chapman and how she interacted with her classroom. She paid careful attention to how Chapman handled her classroom, her kids and how she began the school year.
“I was so impressed,” says Guess. “I felt like I was soaking in so much, because the way she teaches is so much in line with the way we learn how to teach. Her methodology was straight out of my classes, and I saw how it applied to the classroom directly. She brought my paper learning into real life.”
Guess says one of the most meaningful techniques she observed was how Chapman meets her students where they are and grows them to the next level. Guess says Chapman regularly adjusts her lessons to meet individual students’ needs. Chapman credits her time in the language and literacy program to giving her the tools succeed with her students.
“I started the master’s program thinking I wanted to further my education and become a better teacher,” says Chapman. “My motivation became helping my readers that were struggling. I knew I needed some stronger strategies to help them overcome their obstacles.”
Chapman emphasizes that while she learned how to be a successful educator through her undergraduate degree, her master’s helped her focus her efforts and solve problems on a deeper level. Her degree also helps build her confidence and make a case for her students in her district.
“I began to be involved in district conversations about our curriculum,” says Chapman. “My master’s helped give me a roadmap on how to be a strategic teacher. I have proven methods behind my lessons, and I can advocate for what I need with evidence-based reasoning.”
Chapman says that her time in the master’s program solidified her values of being a teacher. She has a renewed passion for literacy and how it should be taught. Guess shares that passion, and says that her time in Chapman’s classroom gave her confidence in her own lesson plans and ideas.
“In my reading assessment and writing instruction courses we learn about the workshop method,” says Guess. “You begin with a quick lesson, allow students to work independently and come back together to wrap it up. I felt like I had the freedom in this class to try new ideas and get creative with the students.”
Guess created a project that allowed the children to plan and orchestrate their own Thanksgiving feast. She gave children a grocery list with prices and $50 to spend on their meal. She then allowed them to shop for their foods and design a plate with their choices. The class had to learn budgeting, addition and creativity as they each shared their plans with one another.
“It gave our students a real-world example for how they will use budgeting and addition strategies and also met the requirements for some of their social studies standards,” says Guess. “With lessons like these, Mrs. Chapman and I talked through the standards we wanted to incorporate, built out the lesson plans and I got to put what I was learning into practice. I got to see the full process.”
Chapman’s creativity with lesson planning can be seen in her own Thanksgiving project. Each year, she goes through the history of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade with her students and challenges them to engineer a balloon float that they will parade through the school. Based on the book, Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet, Chapman and her students study the life of Tony Sarg and his inventions that capture imaginations.
“Teachers love to share — and steal— ideas,” says Chapman, with a smile. “This lesson is great because it allows the students to approach problems, fail and overcome challenges. Because it is a true story, the kids learn history while they create.”
Chapman begins the project by reading the book aloud and discovering the life of Tony Sarg. They learn the history of the parade and the science of helium balloons. Macy’s creates a website each year where students can see the parade routes, characters for balloons and behind the scenes activities.
“I challenge my kids to think through this project like an engineer,” says Chapman. “We talk through how Sarg created his balloons and how has his creations evolved. It’s really been awesome to see how the students build off of one another.”
The students are challenged to pick a character, think of the supplies they will need and how they will manage their balloon. The project culminates with a parade for the whole school where the teachers play, “New York, New York” and they show off their creations amid cheers. The balloons float above the crowd with string and straws as their guides — just like Sarg’s balloons.
“The way Mrs. Chapman teaches grew me so much,” says Guess. “It was so cool to see her in action. She wasn’t fazed by quarantines and kept the kids engaged. I tried to take in as much as I could from her as my coaching teacher. She’s a coaching teacher for a reason.”
Guess says that gaining experience with kids prior to her internship, being deliberate about her foundational classes and building relationships with her professors are key to success in the classroom.
“Education psychology and classroom management seem less exciting in the moment, but I use bits of those classes every day in my internship,” says Guess. “My experience with kids in an afterschool program helped me to not be scared to face the kids in my second-grade class.”
Both Chapman and Guess have a passion for education and promoting positive relationships in the classroom, and credit their internship in giving them a foundation for replicating a familial atmosphere in their classrooms.
“I went into this major feeling like I had a calling in this area,” says Guess. “I feel so affirmed in that after this semester. I love what I do, and I’m excited each day to go back into the classroom.”
“Hannah made it an exceptional year so far,” says Chapman. “I hope that I can still be a mentor for her down road. Being in the moment with real students is one of the most powerful part of the internship experience. I have always had pride in my interns, and I tell everyone to please hire them! I’m proud of what Hannah has accomplished and I know she is going to go far.”