May 26, 2011 | Myrna Anderson

Christine Orlando loves teaching in both elementary education and special education classrooms.

Jane Genzink, Calvin’s student teaching supervisor, first saw Christine Orlando student teaching in an elementary classroom last fall at Discovery Elementary school in Kentwood, Mich. “She just has this natural knack and taught like an experienced teacher,” Genzink said. “I felt like I was watching a person who had taught for years when I went to see her.”

Genzink was so impressed with Orlando, she nominated her for the Michigan Student Teacher/Intern of the Year Award, bestowed by the Michigan Association of Teacher Educators. Orlando applied for the award, and, in early April, she was delighted to learn that she had won first place. “I always loved being in front of class,” she said.

Playing school, teaching school

A 22-year-old elementary and special education major from Columbia, Md., Orlando grew up knowing that she wanted to be a teacher. “Even since I was little, I always used to love playing school, while a lot of kids played house—and the boys played whatever it is boys played,” she said. She was encouraged to apply to Calvin by several of her high school teachers who were Calvin graduates.

Orlando loves teaching special education, she said, because the approach is group-centered: “Instead of a lot of whole-group instruction, the students will have different stations around the classroom that they rotate to,” she said. “It keeps them interested in all the material.”

She also likes teaching a big bunch of elementary students: “I love working with several kids at once,” Orlando said. “They appreciate being silly, and they appreciate being serious.”

To qualify for the Michigan Student Teacher/Intern of the Year Award, Orlando had to submit a video of herself teaching and a lesson plan, plus other materials. “It’s a rather intense application process,” Genzink said. Orlando accepted the award in mid-April at a reception in Detroit with her family and boyfriend in attendance.  All of the winning video entries were screened. “We met the other winners and talked about what we liked about the other videos,” said Orlando, who received a plaque celebrating her honor.

High honor, personal messages

"What a fantastic honor for DeDe (Orlando) as she finishes her time at Calvin College and anticipates her career in teaching and learning,” Genzink said.

Orlando graduated in May, and she particularly enjoyed the Teacher Commissioning ceremony. “The speakers gave engaging and personal messages to the graduates,” she said. “Calvin’s education program taught me so much that it was sad to say good bye to my professors and friends.”

Since graduation, Orlando is back in Maryland, working as the director of preschool gymnastics camp at Columbia Gymnastics. She is also in the process of interviewing for teaching jobs there. “I love being around the young kids, planning crafts and games, and interacting with the campers' family members. It's great preparation for teaching because I use a lot of the same professional skills, management techniques, and enthusiasm in both camp and in the classroom,” she said.

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