At the beginning of his seventh year of teaching, Keith Long, a 1994 Huntington University graduate, knew there was something he had to do.
"I e-mailed Dr. Evelyn Priddy, who was chair of the education department, to say how well Huntington prepared me for teaching," Keith said. "So many teachers bad-mouth their college’s education programs, saying they weren't at all prepared for what they encountered on the job. I feel strongly that Huntington did prepare me well, and the college deserves to know it."
As a high-school senior, Keith wasn't looking specifically for a Christian college. But an academic-scholarship opportunity enticed him to visit Huntington. On his first visit, he was impressed by the facilities, especially the dorm rooms and performing arts center, but it was the second visit that sold him. "I met a number of the profs, and I was really impressed by them," Keith said. "They were friendly and talked to you as an individual."
But once Keith got to Huntington, he found that other students had just as profound an influence on him. "Being around quality peers made such a difference," he said. "I remember well the Bible studies I was part of every Wednesday night. It was nice to have friends to turn to. They were always there when you needed them. Spiritually, we grew together, albeit at different rates. It's a big world — for those four years it was nice to feel special."
When Keith entered Huntington, he knew he wanted to be a teacher. And after seven years of teaching, he's still sure of his career choice. "I just love being around kids. I love teaching. It's a blast," Keith said. "Mentally, it's such a challenging career. You constantly need to know where they're all at, what they're all doing, and be ready to answer whatever questions they present."
Huntington's emphasis on practical experience introduced Keith to his profession early on and helped increase his exposure to the challenges of teaching. During his sophomore year, the education department hosted home-schooled kids who met regularly with education majors, and Keith got a chance to participate in physical-education and diagnostic-reading activities with them. His junior-year experience took him into a Huntington public-school classroom for two quarters. There, he observed a master teacher at work and taught a few lessons himself. By the time he hit student teaching, Keith was ready.
"My student teaching was awesome. I learned so much from the teacher and the kids," said Keith. "I took over teaching social studies by the second week, all of the teaching by the fourth week, and by the sixth week, my supervising teacher was able to leave the classroom."
Most importantly, Keith learned the valuable skills of time management and flexibility. "Student teaching brought home to me just how important it is to have enough planned so that the kids are always working," he said. "But you have to be flexible enough to deal with whatever comes up."
After graduation, Keith worked in a Goshen, Ind., public school, where he initially taught seventh grade before taking on fifth-grade classes. "I felt overwhelmed, like all first-year teachers do," Keith said. "I felt like I was always at school and every thought I had was of school. I even remember a recurring dream I had about certain kids I taught. I dreamed that something happened to their parents and that I had to take care of those kids."
After leaving Goshen, Keith, his wife and their son, Kameron, returned to their hometown of Canton, Ohio, where he teaches fifth grade. Since moving, Keith has also completed a Master of Administration program at Ashland University (Ohio).
In his career thus far, he's met the challenges of the inclusion of special-education students in the classroom, teaching classes composed of 20 to 30 percent Spanish-speaking students, and the pressure on schools to raise proficiency scores. And, he's felt enriched and stimulated by each of these challenges.
When the students Keith taught during his first year of teaching graduated from high school, he went back to Goshen to attend the ceremony.
"I admit it made me feel old," Keith said. "The kids had grown into young men and women. It was one of those moments when you just know you've made a difference."
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