Putting Theory into Practice One Word at a Time

Tutoring at Edgar Road Elementary Webster University’s School of Education gives students the opportunity to enhance their learning experiences by giving real world opportunities.

ST. LOUIS - For three years, Webster University School of Education students have been teaching reading literacy to children at Edgar Road Elementary School as part of the Methods of Teaching Elementary Reading course. Tutoring elementary students is more than a class requirement - it is an opportunity to put theory into practice and grow as a future teacher.

“I remember being a student and realizing that you can only take so much through your ears,” said Paula Witkowski, professor in the School of Education. “After so much listening, reading and taking notes, it doesn’t make any sense until you're actually out there in the real world doing it - the only way you learn how to be a teacher is to do it.”

This program began in 2012 with Webster University students teaching at Pershing Elementary School in University City, but the program currently is at Edgar Road Elementary School in the Webster Groves School District.

When Webster University students visit the school, they first observe the teacher by simply watching and listening. After Students tutoring at Edgar Roadmaking observations on the teacher’s style, methods and the material covered, the students then put their skills to the test, working with kindergarteners and first and second graders. They complete a variety of different exercises involving reading and comprehension over the course of the year with the younger students.

Erin Rasmussen, a junior in Webster University’s School of Education, said being inside a classroom and applying the theories learned in the classroom has been the most useful part of her education.

Last semester, Rasmussen worked with pre-Kindergarten students at Mason Elementary School for her early diversity observation hours. She also tutored students in a reading literacy program in the fall at Soulard School. She enjoys tutoring because she feels it is great preparation for her future teaching career.

“Knowing the content and being able to help students that are struggling is rewarding,” said Rasmussen. “You get to understand how to help the children and what methods and teaching practices work.”

Rasmussen’s favorite part about teaching children at Edgar Road Elementary School is seeing her students’ progress. Even something as simple as a student understanding just one new word, makes her feel she has a purpose in her career choice.

“This program gives Webster students more access to simulated teaching and interaction with elementary students in a supervised setting,” said Carol Zimmer, teacher at Edgar Road Elementary School. “They are able to get instant feedback, instruction and support in their teaching skills as they enter the field of education.”

Rasmussen believes the University does a tremendous job in helping students put theory into practice. Having more programs like this in place can give students the edge they need when applying for jobs after graduation.

“Learning the terminology and being able to be more marketable once I am looking for a job makes me feel confident,” said Rasmussen. “You get to make your own reflections and observations. I think it really helps to have a school that values both theory and practice and gives you the opportunities to know what you’re really getting yourself into.”

Witkowski sees a bright future for this program and hopes to add higher-grade levels and different subjects to give students in the School of Education more opportunities to grow and learn.

For more information on the School of Education, click here