Kathy Meyer Reimer, a Goshen College elementary education professor, has read thousands of children’s books throughout her career. Her collection lines the walls of her office, wrapping it floor to ceiling in a vast selection of children’s literature.
Meyer Reimer has been influenced by books all her life. When she was in high school, she took a life-changing class at Goshen College on children’s literature taught by the late professor Mary Royer (after whom the college’s Good Library Royer Reading Room is named). It was in this class that Meyer Reimer began to fall in love with the idea of teaching children to read — but not just reading for pleasure. She also wanted young people to use reading as a tool.
“I began to see reading as an academic field, in addition to something you do for leisure or enjoyment,” she said.
After studying education at Goshen College, Meyer Reimer became a first grade teacher at Concord West Side Elementary School in Elkhart.
“I loved it,” she said. “There’s so much happening with literacy in first grade. The students are learning to read and write.”
Wanting to know more about why some children learn faster than others, Meyer Reimer returned to school, this time at the University of Illinois. After graduating, she was offered a job at Goshen College, where she has been teaching ever since.
Great education creates great teachers
Meyer Reimer said that at Goshen College, education majors are given opportunities that are unique in the field.
For one, each student is assigned at least six field placements in local schools by a professor who is also a licensed teacher.
“Students never look around for their own placements,” said Meyer Reimer. “We provide a variety of contexts and age levels. We hone it to what we think they will need to be able to teach in any school setting.”
Students are also encouraged to participate in the school’s semester-long study abroad program, Study-Service Term (SST).
“When our students go on SST, they learn how to cross cultural boundaries,” Meyer Reimer said. “School is a culture, and when a teacher knows what it’s like to be in an unfamiliar culture, they’re more tuned into what their students need.”
Education majors also have the opportunity to work at an on-campus laboratory partnership kindergarten. The kindergarten has been in operation at Goshen College since 1959, and became an official Goshen Community Schools partnership kindergarten in 2008.
“Few universities have lab schools anymore,” said Meyer Reimer, who is the kindergarten director (there is an additional director from Goshen Community Schools). “[The kindergarten] is a language-rich, experience-rich, interactive environment, where experiences are the basis for reading and writing.”
Jenna LaBash, the kindergarten teacher, says that working in the interactive environment is both enjoyable for her and helpful for the students.
“As an early childhood educator, I am passionate about the important role of play in the lives and learning of young children,” LaBash said. “Research and experience have shown that play is the best format for learning for young children.”
“I can’t express how wonderful it is to work in such a unique environment,” she added.
“I can’t express how wonderful it is to work in such a unique environment … ”
Another unique way students prepare for their careers is through conflict resolution training. Since conflict is an inevitable part of teaching, Goshen College education students take classes that teach them how to deal with disagreements in the classroom.
“What school doesn’t have conflict?” Meyer Reimer said. “It can be dynamic and beneficial if you know how to handle it, or it can make life a trial if you don’t. Having skills in conflict resolution is very helpful for teachers.”
On top of all this, students are encouraged to become dually certified, adding special education or English as a New Language to their kindergarten through 6th grade teaching license.
“I love that the licenses are integrated in the program, because what teacher isn’t working in a classroom with students who have special needs or are learning English as a new language?” Meyer Reimer said.
Teaching a love of teaching
Without a doubt, Meyer Reimer’s enthusiasm for education and literature is infectious. When she talks about her favorite authors (Pam Muñoz Ryan, Sharon Creech, Cynthia Rylant), her face lights up. And if you ask her about the importance of public libraries, she’ll deliver an inspiring lecture.
Her interests — and her zeal — have not gone unappreciated. Her passion has long been imparted to her students.
“Kathy had so much knowledge to pass along to us, both through lessons as well as through personal stories,” said Seth Krabill, an art education graduate who is now working as a substitute teacher at Bethany Christian Schools in Goshen.
Another former student, Emily Waits (’14), now works in the public school system in Federal Way, Washington. Waits says that Meyer Reimer taught her to be mindful of inequalities between students.
“Kathy let us know that students come into the school system from very different backgrounds, which affects their performance in school, negatively or positively,” Waits said.
“Kathy is a stupendous teacher and mentor,” she added. “Her passion for education is contagious.”
The feeling, as you might imagine, is mutual. In addition to the programs and coursework, Meyer Reimer loves teaching at Goshen College because of the students.
“I love working here because the students are very altruistic,” she said. “Goshen College students want to do good things with their degrees. They want to make the lives of their students better.”
“I began to see reading as an academic field, in addition to something you do for leisure or enjoyment.”
““[The kindergarten] is a language-rich, experience-rich, interactive environment, where experiences are the basis for reading and writing.”
“I love working [at Goshen College] because the students are very altruistic. They want to do good things with their degrees.”