Mary Beck IUSB Lab School & Early Childhood Center
IUSB Lab School
While the exterior of the building itself may not have changed, students are experiencing a different delivery of instruction inside the classrooms at Mary Beck Elementary. Through a partnership with Indiana University South Bend School of Education, Mary Beck has become a lab school, designed to help train the teachers of tomorrow.
Each IUSB teacher candidate is partnered with an ECS certified mentor teacher at Mary Beck. This provides an opportunity for smaller ratios of teachers to students, differentiated support in classrooms, increased engagement, and co-teaching opportunities in subject areas like fine arts, media, and physical education. A full walk zone boundary and 1:1 technology adds to the opportunities for students.
“Our partnership with Indiana University South Bend opens doors for our students,” said Tracey Kizyma, Mary Beck principal. “More personalized instruction and attention will help students stay engaged and feel supported. We are creating a fun and engaging environment for all students, with a strong focus on inclusion, engagement, literacy, and collaboration. It’s my goal to create longstanding and trusting relationships with our parents and partners through increased opportunity for involvement.”
“This year is much different in years past because of the fluidity of movement of students between teachers,” said Suzanne Holcomb, fifth grade teacher. “There are teams of teachers in place that work together to meet the needs of kids wherever that may be. We each bring our own expertise to the table and we play to our strengths to assure student success. Being able to guide a student teacher in their learning reinvigorates and refreshes me to look at my instruction in a new or different way.”
Further emphasis on positive engagement and collaboration comes from the Indiana University South Bend School of Education. Said IUSB senior lecturer and program supervisor Sydney Beauchamp, “I would like for us to create a positive, loving, dynamic experience in the journey to becoming a highly effective teacher. The benefits to our teacher candidates participating in the Beck Lab School include providing authentic and engaging experiences in every area of teaching, and developing relationships in the school community. The Beck teachers are mentoring our students in everything they do. They focus on co-teaching, giving our candidates effective teaching strategies across the content areas. These positive experiences help strengthen and bridge the university preparation program and the real world of teaching.”
While at Mary Beck, Beauchamp helps both the ECS classroom teachers and IUSB teacher candidates as they navigate through co-teaching, classroom management, and other day to day experiences in the life of a teacher that can’t necessarily be taught in a college classroom. “It is the perfect blending of theory and practice,” said Beauchamp. “I’m able to use the information from this experience to talk about and discuss current best practices experiences in my classes at IU South Bend. As we look at our curriculum and the needs of the ever-changing school experience, this helps us to be realistic with our future teachers.”
One of the teacher candidates at Mary Beck is IUSB student Jeremy Rohyans. Rohyans has taught lessons in other schools before, but the Mary Beck Lab School is his first opportunity to work long-term and closely with students. “None of the other schools I’ve worked in have been like Mary Beck in terms of teacher personalities, school type, or demographic. Mary Beck also offers technology for every student and an emphasis on co-teaching. I get the benefit of working with great educators that share a great passion for this school, the students, and the surrounding community.”
“Having more people available to work in our classroom is never a bad thing,” said Holcomb. “It allows more students to have small group or one on one instruction that meets the needs of every student, every minute, every day. In addition, it’s a great opportunity for students to build relationships with adults and know there are many people that care about them and their well being.”
There are currently four teacher candidates placed at Mary Beck, and Kizyma is in the process of placing ten more. Beauchamp expects the positions at Mary Beck to become a desirable student teaching placement for IUSB students. Teacher candidates at IUSB are required to complete sixteen weeks of student teaching: eight weeks in grades kindergarten through second and eight weeks in grades third through sixth.
As Beauchamp reflects on her first few weeks of supervision of IUSB teaching candidates at Mary Beck, she remembers the first of ten evening professional development sessions. ECS teachers and IUSB teaching candidates worked together setting up iPads for students. As they traveled from room to room, each person left an uplifting note of encouragement for the room’s teacher – things like classroom design and teaching ideas – which led to enthusiastic conversations, ideas for collaboration, and lots of laughter. “Through experiences like this, our teacher candidates see what positive and professional relationships look and feel like in a school community,” said Beauchamp. “They can see the effects those positive relationships have on student learning and growth. We can talk about that in a university classroom, but until our future teachers experience it, those words don’t have the same impact. I hope as we grow and develop our program and partnership, the Elkhart community comes to visit and experience firsthand the amazing community that has been built by our team of administrators, teachers, and staff at Beck.”
Early Childhood Center
This year, over 185 preschool-aged children are enrolled in educational programs in ten classrooms at the new Mary Beck Early Childhood Center. Two additional classrooms serve children from birth to three.
While PreK programs are not new to Elkhart Community Schools, the Mary Beck Early Childhood Center is the first to dedicate twelve classrooms for children who are five and younger.
“It is widely known that positive early learning experiences significantly impact the potential of children to achieve in later years,” said Dr. Dawn McGrath, Deputy Superintendent. “We intend to give our children their best chance at success through the opportunities that preschool programs provide.”
“Unlike in the past, this program has become an all-day, six-hour program with twenty students per class,” said Meredith Warnock, early childhood coordinator at Mary Beck. “Our classrooms incorporate HighScope Curriculum, a curriculum program that uses active participatory learning and the plan-do-review process to achieve powerful, positive outcomes. Our programs include a strong parental involvement component, strong instructional pieces, and federal development assessments.”
The two infant rooms at Mary Beck were opened to help ECS employees who needed quality daycare, a request that came through an employee survey administered last year. Additionally, one of the preschool rooms for children aged three to five is available for ECS staff. These three rooms are paid programs, but the convenience of a school-year calendar and times that reflect school times appealed to many ECS employees.
“Having my son here maximizes the amount of time I can be productive at work,” said Holly Stanfill, third grade teacher at Mary Beck. “If I need to stay late or collaborate, I don’t have to set the alarm on my phone and leave early.” Stanfill also praises the program itself, saying, “The first day I picked him up, he was able to tell me the day of the week. He takes pride in his work in the classroom and in the things he creates at school. The things my son is talking about after only two weeks in the program speaks to the level of engagement in the room. I truly believe this was the best choice for my family and can be a great thing for others!”
In addition to the classrooms at Mary Beck, Elkhart Community Schools also offers PreK/preschool programs at Bristol Elementary, Hawthorne Elementary, Mary Feeser Elementary, PACE, Osolo Elementary, and Woodland Elementary. All together, ECS offers over twenty classrooms for children aged three to five.
“We’d like to continue expanding the program and provide additional locations for PreK opportunities in Elkhart,” said Warnock. “We’d eventually like to provide PreK education through more outlying sites so that all ECS parents can have easy access to a PreK education for their children.”