Hillsdale grad­uates without the edu­cation minor also found teaching jobs at the Clas­sical School Job Fair. Joanna Wisely | Courtesy

Without having taken a single credit in the edu­cation department, Hillsdale alumna Bailey Steger ’16 walked into Academy of Excel­lence in Mil­waukee, Wis­consin, just a few months after she grad­uated, to welcome her kinder­garten class.

“I showed up in August having absolutely no idea what I was doing,” Steger said.

She was far from alone — all over the country, Hillsdale grad­uates with little to no expe­rience in edu­cation prepped for the school year. Alumna Patricia Clarey, like Steger, grad­uated in 2016 without the clas­sical edu­cation minor and accepted a job as an art teacher at Seven Oaks Clas­sical School in Ellettsville, Indiana. Ben Strickland ’17 accepted a job teaching math at Ben­jamin Franklin High School with no edu­cation minor on his resume. It was the same for Marie Land­skroener ’17, who teaches music at Immanuel Lutheran School, and Sarah Anibal ’17, who teaches fifth grade history and grammar at Northwest Arkansas Clas­sical Academy.

Each of the alumni found their jobs at Hillsdale’s Clas­sical School Job Fair, which will be held this year in the Searle Center on Thursday, Feb. 22, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

According to a survey con­ducted by Career Ser­vices at the end of the pre­vious school year, 35 stu­dents in the 305-person class of 2017 accepted teaching jobs. Only 24 stu­dents com­pleted the clas­sical edu­cation minor that year, according to Reg­istrar Douglas McArthur.

For Steger and Clarey, their first few months of teaching schooled them in the art of classroom man­agement. Steger said, in fact, that she embarked on what she sees as the hardest — but most rewarding — year of her life when she took the charge of edu­cation 18 five-year-olds. Steger’s stu­dents earned the highest grades kinder­garteners have ever earned at her school and Clarey said she wouldn’t trade her job “for the world.”

Before the school year began, both Clarey and Steger said she scrolled through Pin­terest in search of activ­ities that could help her class under­stand their behav­ioral expec­ta­tions and gain foun­da­tional skills in reading. Both women were home­schooled and sought advice from their mothers who had taught them.

“I had to learn how to put together a class,” Clarey said. “That was a thing that came by trial and error. Trial and error is a first-year teacher’s best friend.”

This expe­rience-born learning may be the case with any new teacher — not only those who lack ped­a­gogical training.

“No matter how well you get pre­pared as a teacher, it’s not some­thing you lock in per­fectly your first, second, or third year, no matter what training you get,” Assistant Director of Hillsdale’s Barney Charter School Ini­tiative Jonathan Gregg said.

Gregg, an alumnus of Hillsdale, works with admin­is­tra­tions at many clas­sical and charter schools to help them prepare and coach their incoming teachers. Before Gregg returned to his alma mater, he taught at Glendale Preparatory Academy in Phoenix, Arizona. He majored in English and math and did not minor in clas­sical edu­cation because the program was not available when he studied at Hillsdale.

Alumna Hannah Fleming ’17 com­pleted the clas­sical edu­cation minor and said she is grateful for the philo­sophical knowledge and hands-on expe­rience it pro­vided her. She now teaches second, third, and fourth grade at Con­cordia Clas­sical Academy and her first year of teaching has been smooth, though not without bumps.

“People kept telling me that this would be the worst year of my life and the hardest thing I’ve ever done. But this year hasn’t been awful. I love it. I’m having so much fun teaching,” Fleming said. “There are days that are really hard, but there’s only been one day where I wanted to curl up and cry after school. Most days I come away with a sense of what I can do better, but I also have things I can smile about.”

The philo­sophical training upon which the minor focuses informs Fleming’s teaching all the time, she said. She ref­er­enced Assistant Pro­fessor of Edu­cation Jeffrey Lehman’s class, Under­standing the Trivium and Quadrivium.

“We thought about how our world is ordered in that class. It was one of the most important con­cepts that we learned. That affects every­thing,” Fleming said. “Order is so important, not just in our cre­ation but in our classroom.”

Just as her philo­sophical studies inform her teaching, Fleming’s prac­tical training in ped­agogy has defined her approach to the classroom. Most important in this prepa­ration, Fleming said, was her teaching appren­ticeship at Hillsdale Academy, super­vised by Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Edu­cation Daniel Cou­pland. He taught her how to translate her philo­sophical knowledge into her actions the classroom.

Head­masters and prin­cipals rec­ognize the value in an edu­cation like this. Patsy Hinton is the head­master at Prov­i­dence Clas­sical Christian School in Oxford, Georgia, and said she has hired four Hillsdale grad­uates, two of whom had not earned the clas­sical edu­cation minor.

“When I’m able to hire somebody who had the oppor­tunity to study under Dan Cou­pland, it’s golden. They get a training from him and a per­spective that cat­a­pults them forward,” Hinton said. “Most of the teachers I’m hiring haven’t had that, however, so I’m used to going through the learning process.”

Teachers new to Hinton’s school and to the teaching pro­fession com­plete training led and developed by the head­master herself. She sits in on their classes, schedules them to observe more expe­ri­enced teachers, and pro­vides them the philo­sophical and ped­a­gogical knowledge pro­vided by pro­fessors like Cou­pland and Lehman.

Hinton said she is willing to hire a teacher who needs to be worked through this learning process, though that offer rests on one important requirement: “If they have the back­ground in the content of the subject they’re teaching, I can help with the method.”

Gregg echoed this. Clas­sical schools like hiring Hillsdale grad­uates because they often have a deep under­standing of the area they studied, he said.

“These schools are not saying ped­agogy is unim­portant. They’re saying they want stu­dents who have studied history or math or English at a deep level,” Gregg said. “Stu­dents ought to have studied deeply in the content that they’re planning to teach.”

Clarey, who studied art at Hillsdale, said she fre­quently draws on the lessons art pro­fessors Barbara Bushey and Brian Springer taught her. She incor­po­rated the art department’s emphasis on mas­ter­copying into her ele­mentary art classes, cutting up a blown-up photo of a Van Gogh painting and asking her stu­dents to replicate each portion before they arranged the pieces to look like the original. She also ref­er­ences the knowledge she gained about art history, she said, as her school’s art cur­riculum focuses heavily on that aspect of an edu­cation in art.

Thursday, many stu­dents will attend the job fair to explore and pursue teaching oppor­tu­nities across the country. Among them are seniors Rebecca Willis and Amalia Hansen. Willis is com­pleting her edu­cation minor with an appren­ticeship at Davis Middle School and has already seen how her edu­cation will influence stu­dents.

“I’ve watched an expe­ri­enced teacher teach and seen how the abstract ideas of clas­sical edu­cation are being carried out in a con­crete way,” Willis said. “The teacher never tells her stu­dents that she’s going to foster virtue in them. It’s just a part of the culture of the classroom.”

Hansen has only recently realized how much she would like to impart her knowledge of patristic the­ology to young stu­dents.

“I love kids and I am pas­sionate about the things that I’ve studied,” Hansen said. “I want to be able to help children have the same love for learning and learn about the cool things I’ve learned.”