By: Katherine Arch
The Education Division at Indiana Wesleyan University is one of the largest academic divisions on campus. To honor the students and graduates of this department, we will be telling the stories of several alumni and how they are using their God-given gifts to teach others. Special thanks goes to the alumni that participated in interviews, the faculty of the Education Division, and to the Division Chair, Dr. Jim Elsberry.
Jill Carder (’15, Elementary Education) knows the value of celebrating the little things in life. She celebrates small victories and encourages academic growth at many different levels. She helps little hands learn to hold a pencil, and write their name. She realizes the value of seeing small victories as significant. She discovers potential.
This is her calling; she is a teacher.
From early on, Carder realized she wanted to teach. Her experiences working with children through tutoring, babysitting and volunteering at church ministries allowed her to discover her passion for working with children. When she began to study at Indiana Wesleyan University in the fall of 2011, her parents encouraged her to explore teaching as a potential area of focus.
“Teaching was always an area of interest for me, when I entered one of Dr. Elsberry’s classes I realized that I had made the right decision,” she said.
Carder works as a Kindergarten teacher at Allen Elementary school. Her time at Indiana Wesleyan University equipped her with the professional tools that she needed to become an effective teacher. Carder mentioned that these teachers gave her valuable tools, but more importantly they taught her to think for herself and understand her personal values. One IWU professor that specifically encouraged her to teach was Dr. McCracken.
“Dr. McCraken helped me understand the importance of knowing what I thought and why I believed what I did,” Carder explained. Reflecting on her time at IWU, she mentioned that she loved being part of the School of Teacher Education because of the support and experience of faculty and professors.
“They have all been in the classroom before,” said Carder, “So they all understood the struggles and frustrations that I dealt with.” Throughout her time at IWU, Jill grew in her understanding of education. She stated that her practicum and observation experiences helped her gain confidence and momentum as a teacher. She greatly enjoyed her experiences getting into the classroom, which only further confirmed her calling to be a teacher. She met many children, each with different struggles and heartaches. Carder said, “In each placement I was pushed and stretched beyond my abilities; with each new experience I became a better teacher.”
As Jill launched toward graduation, her thoughts turned toward future employment. Preparing well in advance, she submitted her résumé to dozens of schools. For each interview, she did everything right; she ironed her clothes, rehearsed several interview questions and showed up ten minutes early to each interview. Despite how well the principles liked her and how well the interviews went, Carder faced a series of rejections.
Having just graduated, Carder began to question her calling to teach. It was already mid-July and she had no job prospects. Just as she was starting to become discouraged, the principal of Allen Elementary school phoned and asked her to interview to be the new kindergarten teacher.
“I was amazed,” Carder recalls, “I hadn’t even applied for the job.” Asked to come back to Marion for the interview, Carder got in her car and started the five-hour drive from her parents’ home in Ohio. She walked into the school punctual, positive, and prepared. The interview went well; Carder, however, refused to get excited prematurely.
Two days later the principal called, offering Carder the job. She had nowhere to live, little money and few connections. Her boss wanted her to start in less than a month. She accepted.
“A week and a half later, I found myself in Indiana living in my parent’s camper while waiting for my new apartment to be ready,” Carder recalls of this rapid relocation. “I spent most days at school, trying desperately to prepare my classroom for seventeen energetic five-year-olds. Through God’s perfect plan and my parent’s unfailing generosity, I would be moved into my new apartment just three days before students would walk into my classroom.”
Carder admits she would not have picked kindergarten as her first class to teach, but she loves it.
“It is definitely the place for me,” she explained. Although her students come from situations that are less than ideal, Carder mentioned that she loves helping her students unleash their potential.
Coming to her class, only three of Carder’s students had any preschool experience. Few could write their name or knew the alphabet. Reflecting on the past few months, Miss Carder is thrilled to see the individual progress of each student.
“They went from not knowing how to hold a pencil to reading,” Carder gushed. “It is just the coolest thing to see their growth.” Carder explained that she has learned to celebrate the little victories with her students. Articulating her vision of teaching, Carder stated, “Each day we improve, we make better choices, and we become smarter. I celebrate with every student for each small victory. Over time, the small victories become huge.”
Written by Katherine Arch, Story Teller for Alumni Relations. Katherine Arch is a Senior English major at Indiana Wesleyan, and a member of the Track and Cross Country teams. She is passionate about sharing people’s stories and celebrating their unique divine potential in written form. Katherine also operates a website called “Join the Ranch” at jointheranch.weebly.com. It is about pursuing God’s purpose for her life and vocation.