By Tena L. Cook, Chadron State College Marketing Coordinator
CHADRON – Chadron State College has been making a major impact in the region for more than a century by educating teachers. Often those teachers return to CSC, earn advanced degrees and become administrators.
Data from the Nebraska Department of Education indicates teachers in the following counties have earned at least one degree from CSC: Dawes, 73%, Sheridan, 55%, Box Butte, 51%, Scotts Bluff, 49%, Morrill, 47%, Banner, 43%, Keya Paha, 43%, Cheyenne, 38%, Garden, 38%, Deuel, 37%, Hooker, 31%, Logan, 32%, Kimball, 34%, Grant, 29%, Sioux, 27%, Cherry, 25%.
State data shows that 100 percent of the school principals in six counties have earned at least one CSC degree: Arthur, Banner, Garfield, Grant, Kimball, and Sioux. Other counties reporting more than half of their principals with one CSC degree are Dawes, 86%, Cheyenne, 71%, Scotts Bluff, 67%, Dundy and Morrill with 54%. Others include Deuel, 44%, and Pawnee, 44%, Burt, 38%, and Box Butte, 35%.
All of the superintendents in Arthur, Garden, McPherson and Sioux counties also have at least one CSC degree. Cheyenne County had 83%, followed by Deuel, 57%, Dawes, 50%, Keith, 49%, Frontier, 40%, and Richardson, 38%.
Eugene “Mo” Hanks, the 7-12 grade principal at Kimball Jr/Sr High School is an educator with three generations of ties to CSC. He graduated with a bachelor’s degree, a master’s degree, and has been a classroom teacher, coach, activities director, and secondary principal in four regional schools. His parents and wife are also educators and CSC graduates. His daughter will earn an education degree and coaching endorsement in May 2020.
In addition to his family’s obvious endorsement of the college, Hanks said he is confident recommending CSC to students planning for their lives after high school.
“CSC graduates do a good job with formative assessments to check for student understanding and ultimately they help students learn. I also believe that CSC graduates have a good grasp of establishing procedures and routines as the basis of good classroom management,” Hanks said.
Hanks has served as president of Region V of the Nebraska State Association of Secondary School Principals and he has received a number of Region V honors including outstanding new principal, principal of the year, and the distinguished service award. He was named the organization’s 2014-15 Nebraska High School Principal of the Year.
Lori Liggett, CSC alumna and superintendent of Gordon-Rushville Public Schools, said CSC graduates have a sound educational foundation in their discipline areas along with a wealth of practical experiences.
“CSC graduates have proven to be truly interested and enthusiastic in the education profession. They are very likely to go on to advanced degrees or to seek out advanced professional development. They are willing to work to hone the skills that they have and assist with coaching or other extra-curricular activities,” Liggett said.
Liggett said being familiar with the remote situation of rural Nebraska schools is another advantage CSC graduates have over other job applicants.
“I feel that attending CSC provides them with a realistic view of what it is like to live in rural western Nebraska. That is a big obstacle we face in hiring new teachers. Sometimes they are not familiar with or aware of the isolation associated with living in a rural community,” Liggett said.
Liggett said when she has the opportunity to speak with high school students who are considering education as a major or profession she recommends CSC for economical reasons, as well as for the quality of education.
Matt Stetson, a principal at Gordon-Rushville, said CSC graduates are always striving to become more well-rounded because it helps their ability to teach.
“I have personally witnessed and talked to graduates who are researching new ideas which can be implemented into their classroom. The secondary teachers I have known take it upon themselves to also expand on their content knowledge so that it enriches their lessons and influences the learning of the students,” Stetson said.
In addition to having a full understanding of educational fundamentals, CSC graduates possess impressive computer skills with regard to technology use in the classroom and are able to instruct their students on the use of it, according to Stetson.
Jerry Mack, in his ninth year as the principal of Chadron High School, said he remembers his excitement about entering the classroom as a teacher in Dr. Al Holst’s class. Seven years later, Mack was coaching and teaching in Wyoming and thinking about starting work on a master's degree.
“I called Dr. Holst and in a single phone call I was convinced. At the end of that school year I moved my family to Chadron to pursue an administrative degree in secondary education,” Mack said. “During my master's degree, I most appreciated the class conversations. My CSC professors would share their administrative stories from their K-12 public school days while my peers and I would share our current school experiences. This collaboration created professional bonds that still last today, almost 20 years later.”
Jonn McLain, math teacher, assistant football coach, and head girls basketball coach at Chadron High School, echoed Mack’s appreciation of the CSC faculty experiences from the field.
“The professors shared stories from their own teaching experiences, which helped me get ready for the unexpected events which happen on a regular basis in public school. They also taught other valuable tools like managing a classroom and differentiated instruction,” McLain said.
After earning a bachelor’s degree, McLain also earned a master’s, and said it helped him gain an appreciation for the behind-the-scenes planning, legal issues, budgeting, grant writing, and meetings with parents.
In addition to preparing many teachers in the Nebraska school systems, CSC also collaborates with regional schools that hosts student teachers.
Jay Ehler, superintendent of Sidney Public Schools, said the CSC student teachers his school hosts are full participants in the success of his school.
“They get to experience several aspects of what makes a school work. They leave the program with a quality teaching experience and also knowledge of other important school things. Our experience has been that the student teachers come to us with a good base knowledge and also a positive attitude to be part of Sidney Public Schools,” Ehler said.
Once Chadron State students earn their degrees and are hired at Sidney they contribute in meaningful ways, according to Ehler.
“They fit right into our team which allows them to participate in professional development and engage in professional conversations that make us all better at what we do,” Ehler said.
Ehler said his district hired three of the four student teachers who were part of a new partnership with Chadron State College featuring a year-long student teaching experience that immerses the student teachers in the culture and mechanics of their host organization.
“It’s a great opportunity for them to learn and also be looked at for future employment,” Ehler said.