University Relations and Communications

Immersed in education

March 1, 2011



College of Education, 657-2315
Dan Carter, University Relations, 657-2269


College of Education student exposed to real world of teaching with junior field experience


MSU BILLINGS NEWS SERVICES — The assignment is to think about words that end in “ice” and “ace.” Invariably, however, attention spans wander and some neighborly talk turns from sounding out “place” and “twice” to questions such as “what’s for lunch?”


Welcome to the world of second grade.


For Lockwood Primary teacher Deb Carlson, it’s just another day in the classroom. Keeping lesson plans moving forward while simultaneously keeping attentions focused and runny noses in check is all a part of the job.

In the thick of it all this spring, however, is Sara Paddock, a student in Montana State University Billings’ elementary education program. And she’s soaking it all up.

“The best part is when I come in and they’re really excited to see me,” said Paddock during a break in the day. “That’s great.”


Working on a double major in elementary education and special education with a minor in business marketing, Paddock is among dozens of college juniors immersing themselves in classroom knowledge as part of their college education experience. Fulfilling the “junior field” requirement is one of the many thresholds College of Education students must cross to become teaching candidates. It is one of the many practical experiences that breathe life into college classroom lessons.


""“This is real life,” said Carlson, who graduated from the education program at Eastern Montana College in 1994 and did her junior field experience in Lockwood.


Walking roughly a mile between desks while checking student work on Monday, Paddock is more than a casual observer in Carlson’s classroom. She helps some of the 19 students with their writing while Carlson works individually with the second-graders who are learning to write their names in cursive. She has done an occasional lesson plan since starting her work in January and is getting first-hand experience with the latest electronic classroom technology.


It’s not an easy task. She is getting the Lockwood experience while also taking a full load of classes, working at the university’s main information desk and serving as a student senator for the Associated Students for Montana State University Billings.


But she wouldn’t pass it up for anything.


“The best part is being able to jump in and get some actual experience,” Paddock said.


Deftly making her way between desks, Paddock uses a marker to ink some stars on papers where students are showing progress on writing the letter “d” in cursive. Other students work on writing their names in cursive. With that famous “eyes-in-the-back-of-her-head” teacher moment, she senses some inattention in a row behind her.


“Who’s practicing their name?” is the quick inquiry.


And just like that, pencils are put back into attention.

""Whether the experience is helping to form letters into a word or formatting technology in the classroom, the Beaverton, Ore., student said her work with Carlson is priceless.


“You find out that having an extra set of hands in the classroom can really be helpful,” Paddock said. 


The practical classroom involvement is a key part of the MSU Billings College of Education experience. Located in a metropolitan area with nearly 30 elementary schools, students in the elementary education program in Billings have the opportunity for a rich, diverse field experience.


College students find the combination of theoretical and practically oriented classes help them develop the knowledge, skills and dispositions that will enable them to become effective and successful educators. 

For Paddock, who attended the University of Oregon for a year before transferring to MSU Billings, the attention the faculty give to the students and the opportunity to get her feet wet is a real bonus.


“I really like the smaller class size,” she said of her college experience. “The teachers here actually get to know you. I never even met my advisor when I was in Oregon.”


Suddenly, it’s time for lunch and the kids file out the door. Paddock and Carlson notice that one boy was busy drawing cartoons instead of writing his name. He spends the next couple of minutes showing that he can do the assignment. With a prospective teacher and her mentor looking on, the boy gets the individual attention he needs, even if he may not have seen it coming.

Welcome to the world of second grade.



For information on the various undergraduate and graduate program offerings in the MSU Billings College of Education, go to or call 657-2315.



PHOTOS ABOVE: Sara Paddock, a junior in the Montana State University Billings College of Education, works with second-graders at Lockwood Primary School this week. Paddock is working with Deb Carlson, who graduated from the same program in 1994. The photos above show Paddock working with students and with Carlson.


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