More than a century ago, Eastern Kentucky University was founded as a teachers’ college, with its purpose to train elementary school teachers. Throughout its history, EKU has evolved and vastly expanded into many other disciplines, but one constant still remains today: a long-standing tradition of excellence in teacher education.
Many choose the path of education because of a desire to enrich the lives of children. Relying on EKU’s exceptional reputation for teacher education, some of the most passionate future educators begin their careers in elementary, middle grades, secondary and special education through the university’s College of Education and Applied Human Sciences.
Immersed in a hands-on learning environment, these future educators observe, practice and research teaching methods at Model Laboratory School, right on EKU’s campus, and they apply what they’ve learned in classrooms across the Commonwealth. As student teachers, they not only teach but also inspire and enrich the lives of children who will become Kentucky’s next generation of doctors, musicians, communicators, leaders and educators.
Adreanna Robledo, Frederick Douglass High School
Adreanna Robledo’s passion for art and teaching led to her dual degrees in art education and studio arts. Robledo credits her love for art as coming from a very artistic family, and she knew she wanted to do art very early on.
“I grew up always wanting to be involved in art, and I loved getting messy,” she said. “When other people are excited about art, it’s a fantastic feeling. So getting to share that with students seemed like a no-brainer — the perfect job of just getting kids hyped for either making art or finding artists or finding ways to be inspired or using art as an outlet or therapy. That’s all very important, and I think all these factors led me to it.”
Among her family being her inspiration for pursuing an art-related career, Robledo also appreciates the support from her EKU advisors and professors, as well as the experience of student teaching. “Both of my student teaching placements were at fantastic school environments with fantastic teachers,” Robledo said. “It was a great experience of feeling like a real teacher.”
Quantasia Perry, Model Laboratory School
From Georgia, Quantasia Perry first came to EKU wanting to pursue athletic training. After taking standard clinical classes, where she got to see what being a teacher was like for different age groups, she fell in love with education and decided to follow in her mom’s footsteps of becoming a teacher.
Perry said building relationships was the most rewarding part of student teaching and what she liked most about EKU’s education program. While student teaching, “You build relationships with the faculty, get advice from them, watch them and see how they teach,” Perry said. “I also liked building relationships with the students and learning how to be able to teach the whole class but also making sure those learners that have particular ways of learning are also learning as well.”
Experiencing the elementary education program with her fellow classmates marks a highlight of her time at EKU. “My class of student teachers has been together since we got here. Building relationships with them has been awesome,” she said. “We always work together. It’s amazing to see that we were so stressed out, but now we’ve made it; it’s the end of the journey.”
Michael Thomas, James A. Cawood Elementary
Michael Thomas decided to become a teacher after a long career in the police force. When school resource officers (SROs) started to become more prevalent in schools, Thomas dedicated his free time to acting as an SRO for his local school district. Realizing how much he loved interacting with the kids and being in the schools led to the push he needed to finish his degree.
As a nontraditional student, Thomas felt apprehensive at first. However, all signs pointed to getting a degree in education, and he found he wasn’t alone at EKU. Now that he’s had more experience in the classroom through student teaching, he most likes seeing those “lightbulb moments” in students. “When something finally clicks and they go, ‘Yeah, I get it now!’ Those are pretty fun.”
Thomas feels EKU’s College of Education and Applied Human Sciences allowed him to get hands-on experience, helping him learn and be the best educator he could be. “I think they’ve gone above and beyond preparing students for what we’re facing,” he said. “You get plenty of practice, plenty of repetition and plenty of opportunities for experiences to prepare you for once you’re teaching.”
Trent Catlett, Fairdale High School
Trent Catlett has always wanted to help people. When he was deciding what kind of career he might like to do in the future, he began tutoring fellow team members on his high school football team. This led to a realization of how much he enjoyed teaching and helping students. He decided then that he was going to become an educator.
“I know EKU has a long history of having great teaching programs, so I was excited to go here,” he said. “The professors really do want us to succeed and become better teachers. They are not only worried about us meeting the requirements in the class — they also want us to actually care about what we’re doing.”
Catlett feels like teaching allows him to combine his desire to help others with his interest in history. While student teaching a civics course and law and justice at Fairdale High School, he found gratification in seeing how his teaching impacts students. He said, “I’ve had a couple of students come up to me and tell me how much they enjoyed their lesson and that they really learned something from it. It’s so rewarding.”
Katelyn Bunch, Piner Elementary School
Morning View, KY
Katelyn Bunch knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was in elementary school. “I’ve always looked up to my teachers,” she said. “I wanted to be the person reading the books in front of the class. And I would play teacher a lot when I was a kid. So it’s just always been a part of me.”
While at EKU, she felt that the methods courses really prepared her for teaching. “I learned activities to use in the classroom and ways to teach,” Bunch said. The experience of student teaching during her last semester helped her to get more comfortable being in front of a class and apply the “breadth of knowledge” she’d received through her EKU courses.
At Piner Elementary, Bunch taught kindergarten for the first half of her student teaching placement and then fourth grade for her second placement. During Teacher Appreciation Week, some of her fourth-grade students showed their gratitude by writing cards to her. “They wrote me little notes and cards that I have impacted them,” she said. “It’s just crazy that you can do that in such a short amount of time.”