For Newman University alumna Emma Eck, life has come full circle.
Eck, a May 2021 elementary education graduate, secured a job as a fourth-grade teacher at Andale Elementary in the Andale, Kansas, Renwick Unified School District, where she will begin teaching this fall.
“My sister works at Andale, and she pushed me to apply there,” Eck said. “I hadn’t thought about it too much, but I was excited about the opportunity because I grew up in that district, and it feels like home.”
To prepare for her first year, Eck spent a lot of time setting up her classroom over the summer, focusing on making it feel like “a home away from home for myself and my kids.” She’s eager to get started teaching and making connections with the other teachers in her building, as well as her students and their parents.
Eck feels that becoming a teacher was a no-brainer since the role runs in her family. She has a couple of aunts who work in the school system, and her sister, a passionate teacher, was a big influence, too. With 26 nieces and nephews and two more on the way, Eck also has a lot of experience with children.
“They have given me opportunities to teach in so many different ways,” she said. “I taught my little nephew, Josh, how to tie his shoes. It was a long process, but the feeling of joy I got after seeing him do it by himself the first time was so fulfilling. I know there will be ups and downs in the classroom, but the ‘ah-ha’ moments after the kiddos understand hard concepts are so worth it.”
The education Eck received and experiences she gained from Newman will certainly aid her in her own classroom. While a student, she had the opportunity to play softball for four years and serve in numerous leadership positions, including through the Student Government Association.
Eck was also a facilitator for Traditions and Transitions, a freshman seminar designed to improve students’ academic success and ease their social transition to college life — a role in which she worked with Kelly McFall, professor of history and director of the Honors Program.
“He was a big influence on my college career,” Eck said, noting that McFall pushes students to find their potential and cares about their success. “He helped me and my classmates develop original thoughts, research and deeper opinions on so many different topics. I’m hoping I can do half the job he did and instill the same skills in my fourth-graders.”
Newman University has a long-term internship relationship with Reacting to the Past, an active learning pedagogy of role-play games designed for higher education. Selected students work for Reacting on the Newman campus and are then able to attend conferences in New York, the University of Georgia and other schools around the country.
McFall encouraged Eck to participate during her junior year and she happily accepted the opportunity. During her 12-month internship, Eck served as the stage manager for the Game Development Conference — running zoom, coordinating between game designers and conference attendees and learning skills that she can bring directly into her classroom.
Eck also attended the annual Winter Institute. There she was part of a student panel and presented the student experience with Reacting to 150 faculty across the country.
“Emma was a terrific guide and mentor for dozens of faculty members at the Winter Institute,” McFall said. “I watched her grow in confidence and comfort throughout the weekend as she realized faculty from across the country were learning from her. Because of her ability to reach and teach people decades older than she was, hundreds of students will learn about Title IX and its role in our world.”
McFall added, “Because of Emma and other student-interns, hundreds of faculty all across the country think of Newman as a school they would want to send their children to.”
Onward and upward
As she begins her career, Eck’s ultimate goal is simply to be the best teacher she can be.
“I will get my students ready to be fabulous fifth graders and hopefully guide them to be successful inside the classroom and out in the real world,” she said. “It feels so great knowing that I will have the opportunity to give back to the community that gave to me so many years ago.”
McFall said he has nothing but confidence in Eck’s future endeavors as an educator.
“I can’t express how impressed I am with Emma,” he said. “Watching her mature academically and personally has truly been a joy. She embodies everything we want our Newman graduates to be.”
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