Community service inspires future teachers

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Picture groupNAU’s College of Education students are not just learning how to become great teachers—they also are learning how to become great citizens by participating in community service projects throughout Flagstaff.

“I think it is vitally important for future teachers to be immersed in the real work of teaching and learning, while also being contributing members of their community,” said Carol Lorek, lecturer in educational leadership.

Loreck’s EDF 200 class coordinated 2,169 hours of student’s service learning through 49 community service projects in the 2008-9 academic year. Barbara Veltri, professor of social studies and elementary education, has prompted about 600 students to volunteer through her ECI 307 class.

Lily Bezalel, a student who chopped vegetables at Flagstaff Family Food Center, said, “I learned that teachers need to be a part of the community in which they teach. I walked away knowing that my work as a human being who cares for others is not done. I can grow immensely based on this experience alone.”

Melissa Lanning volunteered at the Senior Center in Flagstaff and had the opportunity to speak with senior citizens.

“If there’s something I’ve learned about older generations, it’s to treasure the stories,” Lanning said. “I know I went into this trying to help other people, but these individuals really helped me as well. Service helps both sides.”

Combined, the two education classes reached out to local, state and international communities through projects involving Relay for Life, Habitat for Humanity, Flagstaff Family Food Center, Toys for Tots, Boys and Girls Club, Pens for Peace and K-12 schools in Flagstaff, Sedona, Phoenix and Tucson.

Students created a READS program at South Beaver Elementary School, conducted a prom dress drive for students on the Yaqui Reservation in Tucson and filled a storage unit with clothing for the Arizona Association for Foster and Adoptive Parents Program.

“In addition to the ‘physical’ duties service encompassed, whether reading to children, cleaning a church, or organizing tea for homeless women, my students listened, empathized and came away with significant lessons that I could never impart,” Veltri said.