Wolves Academy provides online lessons for area children

Image with NSU Wolves Academy logo

ABERDEEN, S.D. – Northern State University education student Tristen Henke believes every child needs a support system – and as an educator, she can be just that.

“I still remember my own elementary teachers that made me feel important, safe, and cared for,” said Henke, a senior from Center, N.D. “I truly believe I learned best from these caring professionals.”

Now, Henke and her classmates are getting a chance to make area elementary students feel important, safe and cared for during a time of uncertainty. Teacher candidates from the NSU Millicent Atkins School of Education have created Wolves Academy, a YouTube channel containing video lessons for children learning at home due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project was the brainstorm of Dr. Andria Moon, teacher education department chair and associate professor of elementary education; Erin Fosher, interim director of field experiences; and Dr. Erin Fouberg, associate vice president of academic affairs. Moon said Wolves Academy is a resource for area families as well as an avenue for NSU teacher candidates to share their passion for teaching and acquire more hours toward their final student teaching experience.

“We wanted to help our teacher candidates whose student teaching experiences were cut short and the families and children in the community who need resources to learn at home,” Moon said.

Keeping Connected with Students

Rachelle Gabriel was over halfway through her final student teaching experience before her life changed abruptly on March 13, when the COVID-related school closure was announced.

“Creating these videos was a way for me to virtually connect with the students I was working with since I couldn’t connect with them in person like I had been doing for weeks,” explained Gabriel, from Milbank.

While it helps the students keep learning, Gabriel said it also helps her work on her teaching methods.

The video lessons vary. Henke said her first video was a basic step-by-step lesson about shapes. Her second, though, focused on family involvement, providing multiple examples for families to continue learning together at home using household items such as cups, coins or dice.

‘Never Been Prouder to be a Wolf’

Henke is set to graduate this May and said she’s had numerous hands-on experiences at Northern that have allowed her to make connections with the students within each classroom.

“This semester of student teaching may look different than any other as both teaching and learning transition to online,” Henke said. “However, I think that I can speak for all of us student teachers when I say that I have never been prouder to be a Wolf!”

Gabriel, also graduating in May, said it’s been a life-long dream to become a teacher – and that dream is coming true, as she will start this fall as a second-grade teacher in the Aberdeen School District.

For now during this time of uncertainty, it’s important to be kind to the educators you know, she said.

“Whether it be elementary, middle school, high school, or even college educators, they are all going through tough times of change,” Gabriel said. “These are times that most educators have never gone through. Be patient as they are learning to cope as much as you are. Our worlds were rocked and we can only get through this if we are all supporting each other.”

About Northern State University

Northern State University is a regional university that offers outstanding academics and exceptional extracurricular activities at an affordable price on a safe, welcoming campus. Northern State recently announced its Educational Impact Campaign, with a goal of raising $55 million for a new South Dakota School for the Blind and Visually Impaired, new athletic and recreation fields, and an on-campus regional sports complex. Once the campaign is complete, NSU will be the recipient of more than $100 million in privately funded building projects and scholarships within a decade. To learn more, visit NSU Admissions.

Pictured: Henke (top), Gabriel