December arrived. The anticipation of the holiday season was in the air at Leesburg Elementary. Students were looking forward to their winter break, and the teachers had decorated their classrooms to welcome the festivities of the season, but Amber Cotherman noticed something different about her students.
After spending four months at the school, she realized how many of her students had not experienced the holidays the same way she did — if even at all. To her, she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to provide them with the same thrill and excitement most American children do during the winter months.
“I bought all my kids stockings for Christmas,” she said. “They’d never had one before.”
Cotherman, a 2011 elementary education graduate with a TESOL certificate, began working at Leesburg Elementary in Warsaw, Ind., in August 2011 as the new English Learner teacher.
She teaches English skills and proper grammar to 45 to 50 students in grades three through six. Students come to her classroom for extra help on homework and one-on-one tutoring. For many of her students, they will take six to seven years to reach a full English language usage spectrum.
“I try to provide as many services to my students as possible,” she said. “Some of these students don’t have the same experiences I would have expected them to have. I’m trying to create some of these experiences for them.”
After walking into the position, she appreciates the time her professors and fellow HU classmates took to prepare her for her career as an educator.
“I went through some rough spots during college, and by knowing my professors, I was able to communicate things about my personal life that I would not have felt comfortable sharing had I not known them well,” she said. “You build bonds with your fellow classmates that are similar to the bonds of a family. I would not have traded the closeness I had with my fellow education students for anything.”
Huntington University provided Cotherman with opportunities to put her education to the test when she traveled to Germany to teach English and the Bible to middle school and high school students for J-term.
“I used strategies that I had learned from my education classes to help students learn more about the English language and expand their vocabularies,” she said. “I came back with some lasting relationships among the German people I met.”
With that experience, student teaching and the time she spent in the classroom, she felt assured about her chances of landing a job.
“When I went into the interviews after I graduated, I felt confident in the things I had been taught,” she said. “I felt that I had something to offer.”
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