MNU news

Grad Feels Prepared for Job Market

Alayna Elstrom standing and smiling on the campus mall
University News

Student teaching first grade at Sunflower Elementary School in Gardner, Kansas has been a dream come true for senior elementary education major Alayna Elstrom. Having completed a practicum at the school earlier in her education, Alayna says she hoped that she would be placed there. Now with just weeks until she completes, Alayna finds herself confident and ready for the job market.

She’s grateful to her cooperating teacher Sara Weishaar and others on the first-grade team for being collaborative and encouraging. She even nominated Sunflower’s reading specialist, Brittany (Thornton, ’09) Jonker, for an award from MNU’s Professional Teacher Candidate Organization. Active in the PTCO, Alayna served as secretary of the organization for two years and says the experience gives pre-service teachers resources and opportunities that enhance their preparation to serve in their careers.

Aside from the confidence-building and real-world experience Alayna has gained by student teaching, she’s been impressed by the knowledge she gained at MNU. Most US schools are blending learning in the classroom by including technology-based instruction and resources in their lessons. Rather than being put off by that, the first-time teacher says she felt “very well prepared.”

“It’s a strength for me,” she adds. “I’m proud of what I know and what I can do. I learned a lot at MNU about how to integrate technology in the classroom. I think this sets us apart from students from other colleges.”

Alayna says she has compared education programs with students from other schools and can tell that MNU’s focus on technology is stronger than others. Another indicator of quality she says MNU can tout is its Praxis pass rate (the tests teacher candidates take for licensure) of 100 percent.

One of her favorite parts of teaching this semester has been a unit she designed and created called Kansas Families Then and Now. The goal was to teach students what it was like to be a pioneer family in Kansas. Then they compared and contrasted the pioneers with family life today. Using an online tool called Storybird and the technology of Google Slides, Alayna’s students wrote stories and gave presentations on what they learned.

“I was amazed at these first graders ability to present with these tools,” she says. “The students loved Storybird. It became something they would choose to do every day.”

As for the future, Alayna is open to teaching positions in a variety of locations and says she’s willing to move. She’s engaged to MNU senior music major Landon Lampkin and together the couple is planning a July wedding.

When it comes to MNU, Alayna says the relationships she’s been able to build with peers and faculty is what stands out most.

“I’ve been able to share my heart with professors and they have prayed over me,” she says. “They have guided me when I was struggling. That would have to be number one.”


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