Student Teacher Forges a Path of Service for the Next Generation
By Natasha Fly
BGSU student Kelly Largent will finish her student teaching in just a few short months, but the impact on her students will likely last for years to come.
Largent, a middle childhood education major, implemented an innovative service-learning project for fifth-grade students at Conneaut Elementary in Bowling Green that she hopes will instill lifelong desire to help others.
“I think it is important to teach students from a young age to give back to the community because that is what keeps a community strong, supportive and caring,” Largent said.
“If students can begin to feel invested in service projects at a young age, they will continue to develop a desire to help others. I believe that teaching students to be gracious and kind to others is anessential role of a teacher.”
The inspiration for the project came from the class reading of the historical fiction book “A Family Apart,” by Joan Lowery Nixon.
“ If students can begin to feel invested in service projects at a young age, they will continue to develop a desire to help others."“In this book, a widowed mother of six children must make the sacrifice of sending her children west on the orphan trains in order to give them better lives,” Largent said. “My students were very moved by this book and felt sympathy for the characters.”
As part of the service-learning project, Largent chose to make blankets so students could contribute and then donate the blankets to those facing similar hardships today.
“I wanted to connect the concept of families in need in the 1860s with families in need today and give my students the opportunity to help children in similar situations to our characters in the book,” she said.
In order to make the project a reality, Largent needed to raise funds. She sent a letter home to the students’ families explaining the purpose of the project and asked for a small donation.
“Families responded promptly and generously, which made the service project possible,” she said. Largent is also an Alumni Laureate Scholar and received donations from others in support.
The project began to snowball, and eventually children outside of Largent’s homeroom wanted to get involved. Largent began to collaborate with another student teacher to create an even larger project. In total, 45 fifth-grade students contributed by volunteering during their recess every day for one week to make the blankets.
By the end of the week, the students had completed 14 blankets that were all donated to Family House, a nonprofit group in Toledo that serves more than 250 families annually.
“I chose Family House because it is one of few shelters that strives to keep families together in times of need,” she said.
Largent recognizes the value of getting students involved at an early age to cultivate a pattern of service that will provide a greater sense of community among all members.
“I love interacting with the students each day and knowing that each day I have the opportunity to make a positive impact on them,” she said. “It is so rewarding being able to guide them in their learning and help them develop as individuals. To me, the best part of being a teacher is forming a different connection with each individual student.”
Largent has been student teaching alongside Paul Reinhart in his classroom since August, and she credits him with providing constant support and serving as a positive influence during her journey to become a teacher.
“Paul is my classroom mentor teacher and has been a wonderful influence on me,” Largent said. “I have learned so much from observing how he interacts with the students, makes them laugh, and teaches them both academic and life skills. He provides me with constant support, encouragement and insight on how to becomes the best teacher I can be.”
During her time teaching at Conneaut, Largent has taken on the numerous day-to-day tasks that teachers balance in the classroom.
“As a student teacher, Kelly has nearly all the responsibilities that I have as her mentor teacher,” Reinhart said. “She plans, grades, assesses, helps, meets with parents and more. In my 24 years working as a teacher and with student teachers, Kelly is the best I have ever worked with. Her professionalism, dedication, reflection, planning and drive to be the best teacher she can be are unmatched. She has brought a quiet confidence to my room to be able to work with all students whether they struggle or need enrichment.”
Throughout her journey at BGSU, Largent also has been able to rely on support from retired educator and university mentor Cheryl Windisch, who was very impressed by her idea for the service-learning project and saw the value it had to for both the students and the community.
“People living in Bowling Green need to know that college students do productive work that benefit other people,” Windisch said.
Largent is grateful for the positive influence Windisch has had on her methods and student teaching experience.
“She is always very supportive and encouraging while still providing me with feedback of how to improve my teaching,” Largent said. “Her positivity and love for education is inspiring and contagious, so I am very grateful to have her as my university mentor.”
In May, Largent will graduate with a degree in middle childhood education. Just one month later, she will marry her falcon flame and move to the Cleveland area soon after. She is currently in the application process for a teaching position and is looking forward to starting her career.