Student Spotlight: Lauren

The Making of a Teacher

This Truman student found a way to pursue a career that combines her passion for biology with a desire to share knowledge.

By Ashleigh Harding

Lauren Dierkes
To achieve whatever goal we set our minds to, we must work and reach for it using the tools we acquire over a lifetime. For college students, internships can advance goals that range from making connections with potential employers, to getting experience in their field of interest, to graduating. Truman State University’s Master of Arts in Education (MAE) program requires an internship for exactly these reasons. Although many education students experience their first internship after they enter Truman’s graduate MAE program, some students get a jump-start on their internship experiences during their time as an undergraduate. One pre-MAE student who did this was Lauren Dierkes, a junior biology major.

Originally coming to college to pursue a career teaching biology in the classroom setting, Dierkes’ interests have developed during her time at Truman thanks to meaningful learning experiences. Now, her interests in teaching biology lie with outdoor education.

“The education and biology classes have helped a lot with being able to connect different ideas, and they have given me a better perspective on learning about biology and how people understand it in general,” says Dierkes.

After completing an internship at the University of Georgia during the summer, Dierkes became interested in developing science curriculum and field trip programs. The nine-week-long internship was the perfect marriage of her love for biology and her desire to teach. Sponsored by the National Science Foundation’s Research Experience for Undergraduates program, the internship focused on biology research education. Living on the University of Georgia campus, Dierkes and the eight other interns she worked alongside were provided with mentors while also working with graduate researchers.

“The atmosphere was very enriching and I learned a lot,” says Dierkes. “Being in a different environment and meeting all these different people and seeing all of their different perspectives was enlightening.”

Her job, along with another intern, was to look at the misconceptions students had about certain subjects, such as the cardiovascular system. The interns and researchers worked on addressing those problems and figuring out how to fix them. This work is what got Dierkes more interested in developing science curriculum and informal education for biology.

High-Impact Experiential Learning

Dierkes will be working as an Education Peer Mentor for Truman’s Future Teachers Living Learning Community in Dobson Hall. Working with the Student Advisors, they will help form a community within the residence hall, which includes going to dinners with students, as well as attending education events so students will see familiar faces. Dierkes and the other mentors will also be available for any questions students may have about Truman’s education program and specific questions about their majors. The community will have mentors from different disciplines, including history, English, and the sciences, which Dierkes will be representing.

While Dierkes has worked toward furthering her own educational experiences pursuing internships and jobs that have helped her grow as a student of science and education, she is also involved with other extracurricular activities. Along with being a member of the Math and Science Secondary Education organization, the National Education Association, and the Beta Beta Beta professional biological society, Dierkes in involved with the TSODA dance organization and is in charge of the Running Club.

As she explores her options for the MAE internship, Dierkes is looking forward to yet another high-impact educational experience beyond the classroom. She is looking into internship opportunities that focus on biology in an informal setting that will allow her to complete a full-year internship.

Overall, Dierkes’ experiences with her internship and the courses offered for biology and the pre-MAE program have given her a wide range of ideas that she plans on bringing into the classroom, wherever that may be.

Whatever path Dierkes ends up following, she feels her educational journey has given her a strong foundational background in biology and experience in the classroom learning ways of how to think about education from other perspectives.