As the only male in his senior early education classes, Chris Clinger understands his field’s demographics. Male elementary school teachers are hard to come by.
Chris’s father, who owns a business, encouraged his son to get a degree that would help him take it over. But Chris knew he didn’t want to stare at a computer all day. “I love helping people and liked being around kids,” he said.
Education was a natural path for him. Chris chose Heidelberg because he knew the education program had a solid reputation. He wanted to make a difference. “If you have a great teacher in your formative years, it can change your life,” he said. “I can make an impact.”
Heidelberg students begin that impact in the classroom their freshman year. Chris began by observing at a local elementary school. During his sophomore year, he taught one or two lessons a week and then observed at two area middle schools for a semester. It was then that Chris realized he was on the right path. “When I taught my first lesson sophomore year it confirmed every belief I had that this is what I want to do,” he said.
At many schools, students aren’t able to begin teaching until their senior year. Having the opportunity to discover their passion for teaching early on helps build a student’s confidence and ability in front of a classroom.
These classroom experiences helped Chris when he was deciding if he wanted to add an intervention specialist license. He went to the Seneca County Opportunity Center to work with kids who have severe disabilities. He wasn’t sure how to interact with the kids until one young boy walked up and just started talking to him. “It completely changed my life,” he said. “It hit me because I knew that I could do this and want to do this.”
Chris continued to build up his teaching momentum throughout his junior year. He was splitting his time equally between teaching and observing. All of his experiences were leading him toward his senior year student teaching position.
A typical student teaching progression involves a student placed with a teacher and the student slowly works their way up to teaching the entire day near the second half of the semester. For Chris, the teacher he was placed with fell ill so he taught his entire first week with the first graders by himself. “It was sink or swim,” he said.
This spring, Chris will graduate with two licenses: early childhood education and intervention specialist. It turns out that education was the right path for him. “I love the challenge,” he said. “If you have the patience and the communication skill set with kids, you are gifted. Just like someone can be in microbiology or math.”
The ability to connect with kids and get them excited about education really is a gift and Chris is excited to begin his career. “I have so many ideas about how I want to run and organize my classroom. How I put everything together will take years to fine tune,” he said. “Even then, I could have a class that comes along and challenges everything.”
There is no question that Chris is up for the challenge.