A 50-Year Blessing
Leah Weber DMLC '67 (at the chalkboard) student taught in a St. Paul's-New Ulm classroom under the supervision of Mrs. Erich Sievert (standing, left). Beginning in the late 60s, more and more students completed their student teaching outside New Ulm.
2013-2014 marks the 50th year WELS congregations and schools have partnered with D/MLC in the student teaching program. Professor Emeritus Howard Wessel, a former supervisor in the program, gives us the historical perspective on this milestone, and Professor Paul Tess, director of clinical experiences, explains how the program works today.
1964-65: A New Era Begins
By Professor Emeritus Howard Wessel DMLC ’59
Prior to 1964 all DMLC students completed their two- or three-week “practice teaching” at St. Paul’s in New Ulm. The college staffed the “practice rooms” with college faculty while the student teachers did most of the actual teaching. No doubt the most unfortunate aspect of this arrangement was that students missed on-campus classes for two or three weeks and, after their teaching term, had to complete the backlog of daily work, paper, and tests—sometimes over summer vacation.
In the early 1960s, the college undertook a major revision of the curriculum, including student teaching. The goal was to make student teaching a full-time, eight- or nine-week experience. Because St. Paul’s could not accommodate this expansion, the college looked to other areas well populated with WELS elementary schools: Appleton and Watertown, Wisconsin.
Professor Emeritus Dr. Arthur Schulz was the chief architect of the new program. During 1963 he, together with the late Professors George Heckmann and Erich Sievert, met with Appleton and Watertown area congregations to introduce the program.
The congregations agreed to participate, and in 1964-65 the program was implemented. Forty-four seniors were assigned to 19 schools, Appleton in the first and third quarters and Watertown in the second and fourth quarters. Thirty-one teachers served as classroom supervisors.
It’s interesting to note that four of those first supervisors (Robert Averbeck, Otto Schenk, George LaGrow, and Robert Stoltz) and two of the first student teachers (David Pelzl and Susan Haar) later served as D/MLC faculty.
Dr. Arthur Schulz was the first acting director of student teaching, and the late Professor George Heckmann and Professor Emeritus Howard Wessel served as the first two college supervisors, traveling to the schools, encouraging and evaluating student teachers and conferencing with the classroom supervisors. In 1968, Wessel took over the directorship from Schulz and served until 1999. Many faculty members served as college supervisors through the years, with the late Professor Gerhard Bauer serving the longest: 19 years.
Until 1997, the college also continued to staff several classrooms at St. Paul’s in New Ulm, rooms in which two student teachers gained their experience every quarter.
Without the willing cooperation of classroom supervisors, principals, and congregations—as well as hundreds of people who opened their homes to student teachers—the college could not have offered this meaningful student teaching experience. The whole campus family, past and present, recognizes the blessings God has provided through this wonderful partnership with cooperating congregations.
2013-14 The Blessings Continue
By Professor Paul Tess DMLC ’74
Much has changed since the early years Professor Wessel described, though a nine- or ten-week student teaching experience in Lutheran schools remains the capstone of our teacher-training program. MLC education majors also experience 800 hours of EFEs (early field experiences), clinicals, and public school student teaching, which is required for Minnesota state licensure.
Off-campus training experiences range far and wide. Seniors still student teach in Minnesota and Wisconsin, but also in Nebraska, Illinois, and South Dakota; and one-time grants enabled some to student teach as far away as Washington and Florida. College supervisors still visit students on site, but they have also visited distant students online through Skype.
What hasn’t changed is that student teaching enables candidates to learn effective teacher behavior through observation and practice. They see the relationships that exist in Lutheran schools, the responsibilities of a teaching minister, and the entire life of a congregation.
Not to be overlooked (and echoing Professor Wessel’s appreciation), the willing cooperation of congregations, supervising teachers, principals, and host families is the blessing that makes student teaching the strong program it is. I am also grateful for the pioneers who 50 years ago had a vision for student teaching as an invaluable training ground for future harvest workers.
Read more articles in our Fall 2013 InFocus magazine.