Muncie, In. — Ball State University student Sarah Meyer of Batesville, Indiana, believes understanding her students’ culture and community will make her a transformative educator. So, for the entire Fall semester, Meyer participated in Schools Within the Context of Community (SCC), teaching in a low-income community while pairing with a neighborhood family and redesigning a school’s library.
“It’s not enough to just know the strategies and techniques of being a teacher,” said faculty mentor Eva Zygmunt, Helen Gant Elmore Distinguished Professor of Elementary Education. “Educators must understand that they need to know the context of a child’s life and stay deeply engaged in the community to be culturally responsive and effective.”
SCC is a partnership between Ball State, Muncie’s Whitely neighborhood, Longfellow Elementary School, Huffer Memorial Children’s Center, and Roy C. Buley Community Center. The program has won many awards.
As part of an 18 credit-hour — a full course load — immersive learning class, the junior early childhood education major was off campus to be fully devoted to the Whitely community. Each student is paired with a family in the neighborhood to learn the context, cultural background and everyday lives of the Longfellow students. This close relationship aims to transform the Ball State students’ ability to teach in classrooms and provide tailored resources to enhance students’ education.
When Meyer was not teaching or taking classes, she was redesigning and revamping classroom libraries to enable access for all students, as well as helping with projects around the community.
“This project has changed my mindset and beliefs as an educator,” Meyer said. “It challenged me in breaking down my own biases and barriers in order to create a socially just and culturally responsive classroom. We focused on the importance of understanding each child for who they are rather than who we, as a society, expect them to be. I do not know the type of teacher I would have been without having this experience. It was life-changing.”
From seeing the transformational effect of this project — with a profound impact on both her own life and the community — Meyer is committed to this kind of investment in the community where she will teach in the future.
“I hope I have made half the impact on the Whitely community as the families have made on me,” she said. “I look forward to continuing to be a part of and involved in this community.”