International Student Teaching Enhances Graduate's Success

Heather Jurva - International Student Teaching - China - 2017
Heather Jurva, center, with an Elementary class at the Hangzhou New Century Foreign Language School 
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The University of Montana’s Teacher Education Program is one of the most clinically-based education programs in the region. This type of high-caliber, hands-on experience is crucial to preparing confident, quality educators and is a key component to every UM Education student’s experience in the program from day one.

The Department of Teaching & Learning at UM prides itself in the type of instruction and field experience it provides for its students. The past few decades have seen a dramatic increase in the number of student teaching placements, as well in the diversity of locations. In particular, international student teaching placements have continued to be a strong draw for students in our education program. Heather Jurva, a recent graduate in Secondary English Education, is a prime example of the unique benefits that come from student teaching in an international setting, away from some of the familiar practices and settings of home.

Heather became interested in teaching while she was an undergraduate studying Journalism at the University of Montana. Through her program, Heather was able to work with local young adults, helping them cultivate their own voice through writing. She observed innovative, collaborative teaching practices along the way and from that time on, she was hooked.

Upon graduation, Heather chose to continue her studies through the M.A. Education program at UM. As her time in the program drew to a close and Heather’s sense of adventure and opportunity called, prompting her to apply to conduct her final student teaching placement in China, where the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education & Human Sciences has a number of strong partnerships with schools and universities. With significant support from the Rhea Jones Ashmore International Student Teaching Award, a unique scholarship donated by retired education professor Rhea Ashmore, Heather began her journey to China and the last step to becoming a licensed educator.

Heather Jurva - International Student Teaching - China - 2017
Heather Jurva (left) and professor emerita, Dr. Rhea Ashmore
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Heather began her student teaching in October of 2016 at the Hangzhou New Century Foreign Language School, where Dr. Ashmore had previously established a strong working relationship with educators and administrators, helping facilitate the support of our students. While there, Heather’s skill and ability quickly shown and she was provided opportunities to work with numerous classes of Grade 5, 6, and 8. Bringing texts, picture books, stories, and other resources with her, Heather was given the freedom to create her own lessons and projects all with the intention of enhancing the English language learning opportunities for her students.

While at the Hangzhou New Century Foreign Language School, Heather was struck by the “east meets west” model she observed. Certain aspects of curriculum and practice were very new and alternative to what she had learned in Montana, but there were elements of equitable classroom management and differentiated instruction which she recognized instantly. This opportunity also put Heather in contact with educators from across the globe. Working closely with and observing teachers from China, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere gave her a glimpse of varying teaching practices and tools that she otherwise would not have known about. Heather also was given the chance to lead translation and place-based text projects for the school, recording numbers texts and resources which students will be able to use for years to come. Heather’s work ethic and clear strengths in the classroom resulted in officials at the school to offer her a contract to continue working on ninety self-contained lessons and projects for educators to continue learning from her and, indirectly, from our Education faculty at UM.


Heather Jurva - International Student Teaching - China - 2017
Heather Jurva teaching at the Hangzhou New Century Foreign Language School
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This remarkable experience has helped shape the educator that Heather is today. Currently working at Sunflower Montessori School in Missoula, Heather is able to utilize many of the practices she honed in China with her students. Further, she was able to harken back to the engagement strategies and multi-cultural practices she developed during her recent successful interview for a high school teaching position. Starting autumn 2017, Heather will be the newest member of the English faculty at Capital High School in Helena, MT. Through high-quality teacher preparation and generous philanthropic support, students like Heather are better prepared than any others in Montana to be ready to teach and bring with them unique and global perspectives that inform and enhance their work with Montana PK-12 students.

To learn more about international student teaching opportunities, the Department of Teaching & Learning, or the Phyllis J. Washington College of Education & Human Sciences at UM, please visit www.coehs.umt.edu or call 406.243.4911.