Congressional hopeful Schulte will test Steve King, but first, West Elementary
Joyce Schulte, 5th Congressional District candidate, got a taste of how hard-working and dedicated the teaching staff is in the Storm Lake School District when she was invited and accepted the invitation to spend an entire day in Jan McKenna's third grade room at West School.
Schulte was so serious about wanting to see for herself just how today's classrooms operate that she used one of her own vacation days from work to come to Storm Lake.
McKenna invited Schulte to her classroom several weeks ago when she was guest at a Storm Lake Education Association meeting.
It is important, McKenna said, to see the teachers in action, which she hopes leaders can relate to the importance of educational resources. She added that other congressmen have been invited to the classrooms, but Schulte is the first to accept.
"Most congressmen don't think they need to come into the classroom. They think they know what goes on in the classroom because they've been to school," McKenna said. But the observation of today's classroom opens up a whole new world of education.
"I learned so many things and I've been keeping notes as I go," Schulte said, revealing a folded piece of paper with her writings on it.
She took note of the Monday morning yawns of the students and how the veteran teacher makes a point of calling on each student for input, not only the ones that raise their hands with the answer. "It is inclusive in this classroom. Every youngster is asked to be involved," she said, delighted by that fact.
The questions the young students asked throughout the day - "I could just see their brain cells going. I loved it. And all the technical language and training. The patience required of the teacher is tremendous. I have had such fun," she commented.
"I like education and I like to see what's happening in education," she said. Her career in the field of higher education has taught her much as well.
With the government demands on education and educators I need to know (what's going on in the classroom). I need to know from the practitioner's view. The teachers have to be on-task 100 percent of the time."
She laughed, saying that although she had kept up with the Storm Lake third graders, she is not sure she could go on at that pace every day. She she she appreciates the fact that teachers are always busy as they share every once of energy they have their students and that she marvels at how quickly the children soak up the information being taught.
Now serving with the student support services at Southwestern Community College in Creston, it is different working with the older students. In Schulte's first teaching years, she worked in the junior high setting. Many things have changed since then.
"The demands on teachers have grown. They have triple the work (that teachers used to have)," due in part to all the accountability and assessments that are now required by the government."
This is the second time Schulte has tried for the 5th district seat.
"I think with all my experiences I can make some changes that matter and can help create a better functioning government. I want to take the Iowa quality of thinking and put it into every aspect of government. We have some good people in government but I think we can do a better job."
Schulte said she plans to take the classroom experience and share it along the way as she campaigns for the 5th District Congressional seat.
"As we look at the No Child Left Behind program (it is evident) that the 1,500 page-document needs editing and rewriting. Congress has to look and see what is a workable plan. We're asking teachers to compare oranges to apples and then make them both asparagus. It's an analogy but that's what the No Child Left Behind asks the teachers to do. And it can't be done."
Schulte, looking to the future with optimism, said she will take what she has learned during her visit to the third grade classroom with her to Washington when she is elected.
"I will stay in touch with the practitioner (McKenna). You cannot walk down the halls of Congress and forget who the government is for. The government has to work for the people."
She added, "We should be required as elected officials to come back into the schools and learn again and again. this has been a tremendous education for me. She (McKenna) didn't have to make her classroom available to me. the beauty of it is she wasn't pretending or putting on a show for me. She's teaching just as she does every day."
Schulte provided the social studies lesson to the children, sharing with them how government operates. It was her turn to teach the children.
She loved the total experience and said if other schools ask her to be a part of their classrooms, she will try to arrange her own schedule so she can do that.
She has already invited McKenna to Washington to follow her around and see how government works if she is elected. McKenna is looking forward to that educational experience as well.