The Voice: Spring 2001

The Voice

Professor and senior team up for a teaching placement

By Sally Jongsma

Dr. Sherri Lantinga and senior Angela Kroese Visser gave a well-received presentation on their teaching placement at a conference this spring.A senior psychology major had a unique opportunity to explore her career choice last semester. Angela Kroeze Visser assisted and shadowed Dr. Sherri Lantinga, teaching some classes, making and grading assignments, reviewing textbooks, and attending a faculty meeting.
The experience confirmed Kroeze Visser's desire to teach college psychology. In the process, she received valuable mentoring and preparation for graduate school.

Kroeze Visser says she's planned to go to graduate school since early in high school. Like most psychology majors, when she entered college she thought she would study clinical psychology and go into counseling. Many courses and a social service agency placement later, she is convinced that clinical work is not what she wants to do. She still plans to attend graduate school, but now her goal is to prepare for teaching and research.

“I realized after a field experience assignment and a Fundamentals of Practice class that I was really more interested in research and academia,” said Kroeze Visser. “I didn't know if I would have the kind of patience I would need to help people on a long-term basis or if I did, whether I would enjoy doing it.”

Ironically, her advisor and mentor, Lantinga, went through a nearly identical process, although she didn't have the assistance or encouragement that Kroeze Visser has had.

“I realized in college that counseling was not a good fit for me,” Lantinga said. “I didn't know if I'd have the patience to meet with clients week after week.” It wasn't until she began working in her college peer tutoring center that she figured out for herself that teaching and writing were her strengths and what she loved doing.

“I love figuring things out and finding ways to explain them to others,” she says. Lantinga wanted to give Kroeze Visser all the encouragement she could to explore her goal of teaching in college, especially since colleges like Dordt continue to have a difficult time finding and hiring qualified women faculty who work out of a Reformed perspective.

Field placements are fairly routine for psychology students, but they almost always happen in social service agencies. Lantinga asked herself why a student interested in teaching couldn't be placed with a professor. She approached Kroeze Visser, and they outlined a placement for credit. One of their goals was for Kroeze Visser to see the amount and kind of work a college professor does.

To begin, they read and studied books and articles on teaching. Kroeze Visser then observed introductory psychology classes by two professors and discussed her observations with these professors and the social sciences dean to understand what kinds of things were important to be a good teacher. Lantinga also guided Kroeze Visser through a review of several introductory textbooks to give her an idea of what to look for in choosing a text and had Kroeze Visser develop a one-credit course on Planning for Graduate School. The culmination of the semester was having Kroeze Visser teach three class sessions in an introductory psychology class. She also prepared and graded assignments. Both Lantinga and Dean Jasper Lesage observed her classes and shared their observations with her.

Teaching was the highlight of the semester for Kroeze Visser. She not only enjoyed preparing for the classes but was surprised at how much she enjoyed making the actual presentations.

“I found I could actually be engaged with the students while I was teaching. I thought I'd be so absorbed in what I was saying that I wouldn't be able to think about the process.” But she could, and she became even more convinced of her decision to pursue teaching as a career.

The semester-long experience had other benefits, too. Lantinga and Kroeze Visser developed a mentoring relationship that they believe a woman student could only have with a woman faculty member. Kroeze Visser says she was able to be open in a way she would not have been able to do with a male faculty member. She had an opportunity to get a woman's perspective on institutional and professional issues as well as Lantinga's reflections on issues involved in teaching.

Kroeze Visser applauds any efforts faculty make to encourage students to develop their gifts. Although she planned already early in her college career to go to graduate school, many students don't think about it as an option--especially women, she says. Encouragement like that which she received from Lantinga could be an important part of getting more students--especially women--to use their God-given gifts in leadership positions to help shape our institutions and communities.

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