Reagan Stone is an education major who decided to take a different approach to the student teaching experience. Unlike many of her peers, who will student teach in Ohio, Reagan is venturing farther away from home to a place where the culture is vastly different. She will spend the entire 16 weeks student teaching in the Navajo Nation at a school in the Four Corners Region of northeastern Arizona.
Reagan's student teaching experience is part of Capital's Intercultural Student Teaching (IST) program, which allows students to complete the requirement in their choice of 17 countries outside the United States, or in this case, Navajo Nation. Dr. Olga Shonia, associate professor of education, started the program in 2011 and modeled it after Indiana University Global Gateway for Teachers. Indiana University is a school that also partners with Capital for placements and to date, nearly 70 students have participated. Reagan is the first to teach in the Four Corners Region.
"Participation in the IST program is yet another way to make student teachers more globally aware. It furthers their understanding of the students who may look and sound different, increases empathy through the perspective-taking exercise of cultural immersion and enhances their appreciation for other cultures."
- Dr. Olga Shonia, associate professor of education
Shonia is understandably passionate about the IST program. Last year as part of her sabbatical, she spent two weeks in the Navajo Nation where she visited the schools and met with the professionals who will work with and guide student teachers from Capital.
Capital University is the only institution in Central Ohio to offer the IST program. "Capital places high emphasis on experiential learning, and this program is a big part of that," Shonia said. "The students learn about the culture through living in it, immersing meaningfully in local schools and communities." She was glad when Reagan expressed interest in the Navajo Nation. "Reagan will be a Social Studies teacher with firsthand experience and an enhanced appreciation of the Native American culture. The cultural and professional insights gained during this intercultural experience will contribute to the achievement of excellence at many levels in her career as a professional educator," she added. Shonia anticipates that Reagan will become an informal ambassador for the Navajo portion of the program, which should attract even more students to participate.
THE NAVAJO EXPERIENCE
This semester Reagan is teaching eighth-grade Social Studies at the Piñon Accelerated Middle School in Piñon, Arizona. It's a boarding school, so she lives in the dorm with three other student teachers from Indiana, as well as the middle school and high school girls who attend the school Monday through Friday.
So far there have been many opportunities to share cultural experiences. Reagan and the other student teachers were recently asked to lead a Zumba class for the high school boys. "After everyone got the hang of it, we switched to powwow music, and the boys did the teaching," she said. "It was fun to see them doing it and loving it."