MUNCIE, Ind. — Shayna Emrick of Greenville, shaped a culturally aware and responsive teaching philosophy, thanks to Schools Within the Context of Community, a Ball State University immersive learning project that placed more than 20 education majors at the center of a low-income neighborhood for the semester.
“Students come into the classroom with their own unique experiences and cultures,” Emrick said. “It’s my job to ensure that they are effectively educated based upon their backgrounds so they can become the best they can possibly be.”
For the past four months, Emrick paired with a community mentor who helped immerse her in the culture of Muncie’s Whitely neighborhood. From attending community events, to city council meetings, and church services, the Greenville native gained a deep understanding of the schoolchildren’s backgrounds, which she then applied when student-teaching.
“It’s not enough to just know the strategies and techniques of being a teacher,” said faculty mentor Eva Zygmunt, Helen Gant Elmore Distinguished Professor of Elementary Education. “Educators must understand that they need to know the context of a child’s life and stay deeply engaged in the community to be culturally responsive and effective.”
As part of this 18-credit-hour class — a full course load — the junior was off campus for the semester to be fully devoted to the Whitely community and the everyday lives of students at Longfellow Elementary School. The experience transformed the Ball State students’ ability to educate in diverse classrooms and provide tailored teaching. Emrick is committed to applying a culturally aware and responsive teaching style to her future classrooms.
“I can see the transformational change in me and my colleagues from this course,” Emrick said. “We’ve grown so much more impassioned and determined to advocate for, nurture, and fully care for every single one of our students.
“I feel like I’ve become a part of their community, and they’ve become a part of mine.”
SCC is a partnership between Ball State, Muncie’s Whitely neighborhood, Longfellow Elementary School, Huffer Memorial Children’s Center, and Roy C. Buley Community Center. The program has won myriad awards.