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David Mangless ’12 is one of the male educators who make up only 2.3 percent of early-childhood teachers in the United States. Photo courtesy Chuck Fieldman/Chicago Tribune Media Group.

Young Alums Teach in Some Unusual Classrooms

The Class of 2014 brought 45 new teachers to schools across Wisconsin and the United States. Many new teachers strive for an entry-level position to start their career, but in the past few years, some St. Norbert College alums have been able to find truly unique opportunities in the teaching field.

Carrie Roberts ’12 knew a traditional teaching experience wouldn’t suit her so she took the initiative to search for opportunities to not only teach, but help high-need students.

David Mangless ’12 found his calling in early childhood education – an area where male educators are exceedingly rare.

Evie Wippich ’14 is only in her first year of teaching high school English, but took a chance on applying to a small, unique high school in downtown Milwaukee.

Searching to serve
After several experiences helping others in high-need situations through service opportunities while enrolled at St. Norbert, Carrie Roberts purposefully sought to start her career as a young teacher at a school where need was apparent and resources were scarce.

“My interest in serving others began in high school when I traveled to the Appalachia region of Kentucky to help kids develop simple reading skills. I met a high-school freshman who was unable to read,” Roberts says. “From that experience, and after graduating from high school, I knew I wanted to work with high-need children in the inner city or those who were experiencing extreme hardship.”

While at St. Norbert, Roberts participated in the TRIPS program and helped the Zambia Project by fundraising money for the Zambia Open Community Schools. Carrie also had the opportunity to student-teach in Ghana for her final placement before graduation.

“After participating in a service trip with Dr. Delano [Bola Delano-Oriaran (Education)] and traveling to Zambia and Ghana, I knew I wanted to work in a completely different environment after obtaining my degree,” Roberts says. “So I decided to search different states’ education websites for schools that were graded lower than the national average, especially those located in southern states. And that’s how I found Tunica, Mississippi.”

After working for Tunica’s school system for two years – first at the kindergarten level and then instructing second grade – Roberts learned quite a bit about herself as a teacher, along with some of the challenges low-income schools face every day.

“As far as remarkable teaching experiences, my time in Tunica was definitely the hardest thing I have ever done in my entire life. From dealing with students whose parents or family life was unstable to overall lack of organization and limited resources, each day had a different challenge,” says Roberts. “Most of the time it was overwhelming and difficult to keep going since I was such a young teacher, but I did.”

Even though it was a battle, Roberts persevered to the benefit of her students’ progress by the school year’s end.

“Helping my students see they were better than they previously thought was so rewarding,” Roberts says. “Despite adversity and constant inconsistency at home, being attentive to them each day truly helped. I even voluntarily tutored students after school because so many were falling behind. Being a teacher in Tunica meant you were so much more than just a teacher. It was gratifying to be such a positive influence in their lives.”

Roberts realizes she’s learned so much from her two years in Mississippi. Knowing how to address low-performing students and those who have an unfavorable environment for learning has made her a better teacher for her future classrooms.

She advises upcoming education program graduates to be ready for things to not go according to plan, to converse with veteran teachers for tips, and to always remember that their students can meet their expectations.

Roberts is now back home in the Dairy State, teaching third grade at Jefferson Elementary in Kenosha, Wis.

A vocation to the early years
David Mangless currently teaches kindergarten at Brook Forest Elementary in Oak Brook, Ill. Since the early-childhood education field is mainly dominated by women, David’s role as a male teacher of five- and six-year-olds is a rare one indeed, but he was drawn to helping younger children as early as his time in high school.

“I worked in a preschool while attending high school and was astonished at the growth students make in those early years,” Mangless says. “From there I got more experience in elementary classrooms and found myself to really enjoy the kindergarten level. Seeing that younger students will, more often than not, have women as teachers inspired me to pursue a career in early childhood education and show students that men can be positive and influential teachers as well.”

To choose a career where he would become the minority shows a readiness to step into the unknown, but Mangless didn’t see it that way. For him, experiencing his students’ eagerness and desire to learn over the course of a school year fuels his passion to teach day in and day out.

“Kindergarteners have a true love for school and really want to learn and do their best,” Mangless says. “Nothing excites me more than when one of my students starts reading independently on their own after several months of practicing.”

Although he’s happily going into his third year of teaching kindergarten – his first at Brook Forest – each day has its own trials.

“One of the most difficult parts of teaching young students is keeping them engaged and focused,” Mangless says. “A five- or six-year-old can only sit still and take in information for five to 10 minutes before their mind starts to wander. This means I have to be quick-thinking on how I can teach lessons in a short and engaging manner.”

As a male teacher in the early childhood field, Mangless encourages other young men thinking about the education program at St. Norbert to choose a similar path. He suggests that those interested should consider working or volunteering at the St. Norbert Children’s Center. With the help of Bonnie Lueck, the center’s director, working in the preschool program can give future male educators a glimpse of what it’s like to work with younger students.

Blended learning at MC2
Fresh out of St. Norbert, Evie Wippich is in her first year of teaching high school English in downtown Milwaukee, but the Milwaukee Community Cyber High School (MC2) isn’t your typical Wisconsin high school.

MC2 is a non-instrumentality charter high school, commissioned through the Milwaukee Public School system. The school provides unique learning for its students and has more freedom than a traditional public school, but is also responsible for meeting higher standards.

Instead of the usual curriculum, MC2 operates a project-based, blended learning model while integrating self-paced, online work and face-to-face instruction with one of six teachers. In other words, this is a school where students are encouraged through more independent learning while still being guided by their teachers. Furthermore, staff members are employees of the charter school itself, not the Milwaukee Public School system.

Wippich saw this as an amazing opportunity from the start.

“I was first drawn to MC2 because of my love for charter schools,” says Wippich. “Ever since my time visiting Phantom Knight during my sophomore-block teaching experience at St. Norbert, I’d always been intrigued by charter schools. I wholeheartedly believe that dedication to individualized learning in schools like MC2 is essential for students to reach their full potential.”

With only about 110 enrolled students, MC2’s very close-knit community gives students the personal touch needed for individualized learning.

One unique aspect of the school’s policy is the practice of students calling staff members by first names, which Wippich believes allows teachers and students to act as peers while balancing a culture of respect.

“While I was initially wary of students calling me ‘Evelyn,’ I have grown to love it,” Wippich says. “To me, the school has successfully maintained a mutual respect between students and staff while allowing strong teacher-student bonds to form.”

Because her first teaching position has been far from traditional, Wippich hopes upcoming education-program graduates will keep their minds open to all possibilities. That is what guided her to apply for her current role in the first place.

“I actually almost didn’t apply to MC2 because the posting asked for three years of experience, which I technically didn’t have,” Wippich says. “MC2 is clearly a non-traditional school, which initially worried me, but I’m obviously very glad I went for it! Nothing is more important than always remembering your unyielding passion for education and to face everything with confidence and excitement.”

Feb. 3, 2015