Becky Bushner may be teaching a small class in one of the state's smallest schools this year.
However, the little size of her school does not match her large desire to see her students succeed.
Bushner, a 1996 graduate of Urbandale High School in Urbandale, and a May 2001 elementary education graduate of Concordia University in Seward, Neb., is in her first year of teaching youngsters at the Concordia Lutheran School located on the west side of Storm Lake.
She works with two fourth-grade students and seven third-grade pupils, and said the tiny class size has been very beneficial to her in her first year of teaching.
"It's worked out really well that it is this small of a class size, especially for my first year," Bushner said. "It's a nice way to ease into it."
Bushner's career goals always included working with children, but her first focus had been in the field of child care rather than education.
However, her job track switched course after she realized she enjoyed being around older children in a school-like setting more than helping infants and toddlers.
"I've always liked kids, so I kind of fell into this," Bushner said. "I originally thought I wanted to work at a daycare with little kids, but then I realized I liked older kids better because they can do more for themselves. You don't have to help older kids tie their shoes or zip up their coats like you have to with little kids."
To pursue her dream of educating elementary students, Bushner decided to attend Concordia University, a school of 1,200 students located in Seward, a town of 6,000 25 miles northwest of Lincoln.
Bushner's mother, a teacher and principal at Mt. Olive Lutheran School near Des Moines, had also taken classes at the university, and Bushner decided to retrace her mom's collegiate path at the Nebraska school.
"I knew I wanted to be a Lutheran teacher, and Concordia originated as a Lutheran teacher's college, so it seemed like a perfect fit," Bushner said. "Since my mom went there I knew a lot about the school, and I've been happy with my decision to go there."
Bushner first became aware of the new opening in Storm Lake from Concordia University's career center, which is intimately involved in helping all its education graduates locate jobs at Lutheran schools.
Unlike the career centers of many other colleges, Lutheran universities engage in a procedure called a cull process, which helps lighten the burden of job searching for future educators.
Students such as Bushner fill out sheets providing details about their resume, what part of the country they would like to teach in and what size of school they would desire to start at.
The university then sends out the pamphlets to Lutheran schools with job openings across the country.
Students are then summoned by the different schools for interviews, and the final candidate is selected through a regular interview process.
Bushner's interview was the first time she had ever been in Storm Lake, but she said she was happy to be hired in a town close to family and friends.
"I knew I wanted to be in the Midwest because I have family in Michigan, Illinois and Iowa, so I wanted to stay in this part of the country," Bushner said. "This job here in Storm Lake just seemed to be a good place to be, so I was happy when they offered it to me."
One reason Bushner said she enjoys working at Concordia is the freedom it offers her in the area of religion.
While public school educators are barred from teaching any form of religion in their classrooms, Bushner said she loves being able to share her faith openly with her students.
"I like being able to pray with the kids, read Bible stories and teach religion," Bushner said. "You're not restricted from teaching that, especially around Christmas time. The whole reason for Christmas is Jesus' birth, and I want to share that with the kids."
Another positive Bushner has found at the Lutheran school is the close working relationship between herself and the parents of the pupils.
The small nature of her class allows her to become better acquainted with both students and parents, and Bushner said the rapport she has developed with the adults has been enjoyable for her to experience.
"The families and the kids have been the best part," Bushner said. "The parents have been really supportive. They come in and are really involved in what their kids are doing. There also aren't any bad kids. They can get a little silly sometimes, but they're really all good kids."
Bushner will celebrate her 23rd birthday on Friday, and the special occasion will be a prelude to a milestone of a different sort next summer: marriage.
Bushner will wed Jonathan Liebich, a senior at Concordia University who is studying to become a pastor.
Liebich's career plans mean Bushner will not be able to stay in Storm Lake for long, but she said she will make the most out of her short stay at Concordia Lutheran School this year.
"I've learned a lot, and it's been a good place to be," Bushner said. "I"m excited to see what the rest of the year will bring."