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NEWS — February 23, 2010 12:00 am

Taking the time to teach the kids

Every Friday last semester freshman Erika Koenig would bike six miles up and down Stadium Hill to get to school. 

While the freshman was enrolled at Minnesota State, that’s not where she was going so faithfully, rain or shine.  She was biking to Monroe Elementary School in North Mankato. She wasn’t going there to learn, she was going there to teach.

By the time Koenig graduated from high school in Omaha, Neb., she had no doubt that she wanted to dedicate her life to teaching children. 

“I have a passion for working with kids,” Koenig said, so it is no surprise she is majoring in elementary education.  What may be a surprise is how quickly she got into the field.

A gifted student, Koenig was accepted into the new MSU honors program as one of the eleven pilot students.  Through contacts in the program, she learned of an opportunity to volunteer at Monroe Elementary School.  The school was facing staff shortages due to budget cuts, and Koenig eagerly stepped up to help.

Koenig worked in teacher Cindy Duther’s fourth-grade classroom where she would make bulletin boards, hang   art projects in the hallways, make copies of worksheets, file papers, and sometimes help kids with assignments or activities. When some children struggled with writing, she would help them with their writing on assignments that weren’t writing-based, such as math.  When she wrote down their answers, they could focus on just solving the math problem.

“I loved working with Erika,” teacher Cindy Dutcher said. “She is an extremely caring and kind person … such a nice person to be around. Whether it was towards the students, other teachers, or myself, she gave us a special gift when she was around. “

“Erika’s biggest strength is her ability to work with others,” added Kurtis Malecha, another freshmen in the honors program.  “She rarely thinks of herself.  She is always happy and will talk to you in the hallways as you pass … not just a simple hello, but, ‘Hey, how has your day been?  How is your semester?’ etc.  Overall, Erika is a great asset to the honors program and MSU, [and] I think she will make a great teacher someday.”

Erika is really happy with the university.  Her choice to come here was mostly due to the excellent elementary-education program and scholarships she received, and she loves it.

“MSU is really diverse and has a lot of opportunities if you seek them out,” Koenig said. “I like the close-knit campus. It feels like a small community.”

Koenig hopes to volunteer more at Monroe Elementary and eventually teach kids in the inner city.

Grace Webb is a Reporter staff writer

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