MARQUETTE - Samantha Ogea is a familiar face in area schools.
Though she is still a student, Ogea has been teaching physical education to kids since last year and has led classes in Father Marquette Elementary School, the Marquette Senior High School and the Crossroads Christian Academy in topics ranging from square dancing to floor hockey.
She is one of a handful of Northern Michigan University students who are stepping out into the community and getting hands-on classroom experience even before their student teaching tenures begin.
Clockwise from far left, Crossroads Christian Academy students Matthew Zambon, Lydia Harman, Sam Vallin, Lauryn Folker, Jay Oberg, Jesse Laurin and Northern Michigan University student physical education teacher Samantha Ogea square dance together during P.E. class recently. (Journal photo by Danielle Pemble)
"For me, I never really got to work with such a young age group until I started the P.E. program here," she said. "The fact that we get to put the techniques that we are learning about into practice is really helpful."
As a part of the Methods and Materials of Physical Education class at NMU, Ogea and her classmates travel to a few local schools, where they get real classroom time with students.
She said many students, surprisingly, are more willing to cooperate with a college student than with a teacher they are accustomed to.
"At Crossroads Christian Academy, we have a little girl who doesn't normally participate," Ogea said. "As soon as she sees one of the NMU students, she will immediately run up to him and do whatever he says."
Ogea's classmate Erik Dalgord said the success of the class is a result of hard work and vision by a pair of NMU faculty members. The class is taught by associate professor Bill Connor and his wife, Ruth, an adjunct professor, helps with the community outreach portion, often traveling to the schools with the students.
"They get us out there doing what we're going to be doing," Dalgord said. "They don't just sit there and lecture at us. They make us get out there and do it."
Ruth Connor said her husband has attempted to establish programs with local schools wherever he has taught. Such programs allow the students to help the community and prepare the college students for what they will see when they become full-fledged teachers.
"It's wonderful," Connor said. "By the time they go out and do their student teaching, they are very comfortable working with (kids).
"It's a win-win."
Willa Vallin, the administrator of the Crossroads Christian Academy, said she realized a couple of years ago that as the enrollment swelled, her school would need help addressing some specific needs - like physical education.
She talked with the Connors and her school was included in the program. She said the result has been positive, especially for the students.
"They have really liked it," Vallin said. "We focus not just on playing different sports, but also the skills involved. This is giving them the opportunity to experience a lot of different sports at a lot of different skill levels."
Since her school doesn't have a dedicated physical education program, Vallin said the NMU program serves an important role, acquainting students with sports and activities they can partake in on a community level. And even if they don't join a sports team, students can gain valuable skills from the exercises.
"They're learning how to problem solve," Vallin said. "They're learning how to see three steps ahead."
Kyle Whitney can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.