Some dreams take a bit longer to fulfill than others. Just ask Stacey Lange ’08. She comes from a long line of teachers and ever since she can remember, she wanted to become a teacher, too. However, as she was exploring post-high school plans, a guidance counselor steered her down a different career path, claiming that the teaching industry was saturated. With that advice, Stacey pursued tourism and hospitality management.
As her life assumed different priorities – including marriage and children – it took several years for Stacey to reach the decision that she wasn’t fulfilled in her career and needed to do something about it. And that something was teaching!
“I explored different programs, but had trouble finding something that would allow me to balance family and work … and then I found Alverno.” In 2000, Stacey enrolled in Alverno on the Weekend and started taking classes part time, every other weekend.
“Historically, I felt that school wasn’t personalized enough for me. I call it ‘skill and drill’ when you learn something one day, then take a test on it the next. After hearing about Alverno, I thought that this learning style could be much more meaningful for me. And it was! I really soared, and I learned a lot about myself, but also about curriculum, in general.”
After four years of Alverno on the Weekend, Stacey shifted to weekday classes where she could focus on the core teaching preparation curriculum. She continued to excel in the classroom and after several field experiences was selected by Alverno faculty for an exclusive internship at Walker Elementary in the West Allis-West Milwaukee School District. Unlike traditional student teaching, the internship opportunity was different in that Stacey taught 50 percent of the time in the classroom without a teacher present.
After graduating from Alverno in 2008, Stacey remained in the district where she continuously incorporates teaching philosophies learned at Alverno into her curriculum. Most recently, Stacey has been busy developing and implementing a new teaching vision called Next Generation Learning.
Collaborating with a cross-sampling team of teachers from within the district, the performance-based program creates a personalized learning environment that uses goal-setting, reflections and assessments for improved student performance. Implemented in the 2011-12 school year, Stacey’s classroom community (there were programs in other schools, too) relied on three teachers and two student teachers to oversee 54 students in kindergarten through second grades, or what Stacey describes as a “multi-age cohort of learners.”
“Although still in its relative infancy, the program has been hugely successful,” shares Stacey. “It was recognized by CESA (Cooperative Educational Service Agency), plus teachers from all over the state have made classroom observation visits. The results have been excellent; the program – which launched in six elementary classroom communities, plus some classes in middle and high school – is now doubling in size this next school year.”
News of its success quickly spread to Alverno faculty. Stacey returned to campus to share details about the program, as well as stories from her own personal experience at Alverno with students from ED216 (Technology in Classroom). In addition, the Next Generation Learning team is extending a student teaching opportunity to two students enrolled in the teacher preparation program at Alverno.
“Of course I’m excited to help two future teachers, but I’m also eager to get feedback from them. They have fresh ideas and I want to create an environment where they can share those ideas. I had people who encouraged me, allowing me to try new things and I want to do the same in return. I think that’s what learning and teaching is all about … continuous improvement.”
Click on the 2011-12 President’s Report to read more amazing stories like the one featuring Stacey.