Teaching to Aid Transition
rady Severs (BA 2015, English Education)
always wanted to travel and has a deep
respect for the military—so he knew he’d
found his calling when he heard about a
Department of Defense Education Activity
(DoDEA) student teaching program. Severs
taught English language arts to sixth and
seventh graders in the spring of 2015 at
Ramstein Middle School in Southwest
Germany, through a partnership between
Purdue and Ball State University.
“My experience in Ramstein deepened
my desire to be an educator. It gave me direct
involvement with actual teaching over a longer
span and it helped me see that teaching is
what you make it,” says Severs.
While he transitioned to his teaching role,
his students juggled their own challenges as
family members of military personnel and
civil servants. During his student teaching,
15 students arrived from the U.S. or Europe or
left for other bases. Some were struggling with
the absence of a deployed parent. For many
Rachel Reynolds is a third-year student of poetry in the Masters of Fine Arts program at Purdue University. Her poetry has
appeared in The Rattling Wall, Mosaic, Plain China, The Redlands Review, The Sand Canyon Review, and Zaum magazine. She is a
two-time recipient of the Academy of American Poets Jean Burden Award for poetry. Her poems “Ekphrastic” and “Aubade” received
first prize in the Kneale Awards category at Purdue’s Literary Awards in 2014 and 2015. She currently serves as poetry editor for
The Sycamore Review. Photo courtesy of Rachel Reynolds.
of his students, these frequent changes are
familiar—but not always welcome or easy.
Severs prepared a unit that referenced
these transitions through an exploration of
the concept of culture. Students read Don
Quixote and the Windmills, a retelling of
Cervantes’s story, and an article on feudalism.
They discussed political structures, economic
systems and serfdom, and other elements
of culture. Their discussions gave students
an opportunity to share their experiences of
being newcomers in strange environments.
For the year’s final project, students created a
presentation on a story from another culture
coupled with research on the country from
which it derived.
Though they hail from across the globe,
Severs says the “third culture kids” at
Ramstein Middle School identify with each
other. They move from place to place and
make friends quickly while dealing with
the intricacies of military life. Yet they don’t
necessarily fully identify with the larger
culture in which they reside because they
are frequently uprooted. Severs helped them
realize that though the new cultural traditions
they are being exposed to are unfamiliar, this
doesn’t diminish their worth.
He credits his Purdue courses, particularly
with Melanie Shoffner, associate professor
of English education, for preparing him for
his unique classroom. “We talked about
multicultural literature many times in my
English education courses, and I found my
ability to integrate this into the classroom
invaluable. Teaching at DoDEA helped me
learn not only to adapt, but also to utilize
these aspects to create a richer discourse
Severs will apply his global knowledge
at Chesterton Middle School in Chesterton,
IN, where he teaches English to seventh and
eighth graders. “I want to open up these kids
to the world we live in and try to impress upon
them just a fraction of what is out there to see
By Melissa Fraterrigo. Photo courtesy of Brady Severs.