International Connections


Shay Tiarks

Major: Elementary Education


Minor/option/emphasis: Learning Technologies

Year: Senior
Hometown, State: Underwood, Iowa

Type of experience: International Student Teaching
Experience: International Student Teaching
Experience website: http://isuabroad.iastate.edu/?go=IntlTeaching
Destination: Norway

Overall experience..
I spent eight weeks student teaching multiple grade levels in Uskedalen, Norway. I had the opportunity to teach English, science, home economics, art and physical education. I was able to learn a variety of teaching strategies that helped to communicate with all of the students. There was time to observe throughout the experience, but I had to ask the teachers to translate for me. This program consisted of five student teachers from Iowa State and five student teachers from Arizona. It provided us with an opportunity to collaborate on lessons and learn new strategies that could be applied in the classroom. It was a great experience to take part in the life of the community and ask questions to learn more about the culture. All of the people I met were friendly and excited for me to travel around Norway to experience all it has to offer. This whole experience has helped broaden my view of the world and learn more about a different culture.

I learned...
I had the opportunity to learn about this program through a presentation at freshman orientation. It was helpful to talk with an advisor about all of the options.

An impact to my life...
There are a variety of strategies that I will be able to take back to the United States and use to help more students be successful. This is a tremendous opportunity to gain experience working with ESL students and to develop teaching strategies that will allow all students to learn despite a language barrier. I learned about how important it is to be aware of differences between cultures and ways to make accommodations for students. I really had to get to know all of the students to make those positive connections and gain their trust. It is an amazing opportunity to make an impact on these students and give them the skills to communicate with people around the world. A personal reason for participating in this program is to learn how to navigate through a different culture and adapt to new situations. This experience has helped prepare me for the responsibilities and expectations that are required of a teacher.

My most valuable learning experience...
A valuable learning experience happened during physical education with the seventh grade. The students were starting a unit on swimming. All of the students had to pack up bookbags to get on the bus going to Rosendal. I was able to spend time getting to learn more about all of the students and talk about experiences in Norway. At the pool it was interesting to learn that the students took turns getting ready in the locker room. I learned that a boy had to wait to change into a swimsuit because of his religion. It was a way to make accommodations for the student to make him feel comfortable in that environment. The whole class was very respectful towards the student and still tried to include him in all of the activities. It was interesting to watch all of the positive interactions and see how inclusive the students were playing the games. There was a student that struggled with swimming, but he was included in a different way. I learned how important it is to make sure that all students are included in the classroom. I want to find ways to make accommodations to meet the needs of my students and help them be successful!

I will never forget...
I was able to experience a ski day for all of the students and staff members in the Uskedalen school district. We started the day by packing up all the ski gear and riding up to the top of a mountain with Trine. She was kind enough to let us borrow proper ski equipment to join in the activities. We arrived at the ski lodge ahead of schedule and took the extra time to bundle up for the cold. The students gradually started to show up and prepare for a full day of skiing. We were able to ask the students questions and they were excited to show us how to ski. I was nervous to try skiing but became comfortable the more I moved around. There were “skins” on the bottom of my skis that helped with traction on the snow and made it easier to climb up the small hill. I did fall a couple of times and I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to get back up. It was a great experience and I definitely got better at skiing throughout the day. I even had the opportunity to go sledding with a couple of the students and it was a blast! We did get a bunch of snow in the face, but it was worth it to spend time with the students. I had more fun watching all of the students go down the hill though, because they have been skiing for years. There were even a couple of boys that were able to do jumps going down a ramp. It was amazing that the students didn’t really need directions and could just go on their own. The students understood how to behave at the lodge and stay safe while skiing.

A surprising discovery...
I was surprised that all of the students in the school have multiple opportunities throughout the day to be outside. I like the idea of students being active to stay healthy and it promotes critical skills that will be needed throughout life. These students are able to learn through exploration activities and often times come up with creative results. This is a way to make the content more relevant for students and it promotes an interest in the environment. I would like to take back the idea of incorporating hands-on projects into all of the lessons to help engage students in the content. This learning style helps students better retain information and apply the skills to real world situations. Students are exposed to challenges and learn how to make adjustments to solve the problem.

Advice for others...
Always take the opportunity to try new things! It shows that you are willing to step outside of your comfort zone. I gained important life skills from this experience that have helped me to grow as an individual. There was an incredible amount of support to be successful in the classroom. I was able to learn more about education and it will transfer into my career.

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