Student Profile of Bonnie Striegel
By Amanda Flowers
Most students find it difficult to juggle college and a job at the same time. Bonnie Striegel, however, juggles college, student teaching, a part-time job, and volunteer work, all seemingly without breaking a sweat. What makes all this hard work worthwhile for her is simply the feeling she gets from working with children. “It is so rewarding to be able to work with children from day to day,” she says. So rewarding, in fact, she has chosen to pursue a career in childhood education.
“I decided to become a teacher because I want to help children learn and grow while forming bonds and attachments with them,” Striegel says. She readily admits she misses the children from her first placement this semester at St. Leo the Great, which ended on March 18, sighing, “I miss those kids already!”
Striegel made the decision a few years ago that she wants to work with children with disabilities. “I couldn’t have made a better decision,” she says. “I’m currently involved in Sigma Pi Epsilon Delta, which is a special education honorary. Each month I volunteer my services working with children with disabilities.” This month she is volunteering at SABAH, an organization that offers therapeutic ice-skating to individuals with special needs.
Rewarding work is not without its challenges, however. In addition to student-teaching Monday through Friday for eight or more hours a day, Striegel also works an eight and a half hour shift at Ted’s Hotdogs every Saturday, as well as keeping up with her independent studies coursework, attending class every Thursday night, and a meeting for Sigma Pi Epsilon Delta every other week. She also has to factor in the volunteer work she does for her special education honorary, which requires her to volunteer two hours every month. “The only time I have for a social life is on Sundays, and most of the time I have to use them to plan my lessons or catch up on work from my two classes. This is my toughest semester because of student-teaching,” she says. “That is a full time job in itself.”
The students, however, make it all worthwhile. When her placement at St. Leo the Greay was ending, Striegel said, “The students presented me with a class gift. My cooperating teacher ordered me a tote bag offline and had my initials put on it. The students filled this tote bag with supplies I will need my first year of teaching. They filled it up with white-out, dry erase markers, erasers, pens, pencils, knick knacks for my desk, Post-It notes, notebooks, folders, stickers, etcetera. One student even bought me a beautiful bracelet. I was almost in tears. They also made me a book with all of their pictures on the outside of it.” She goes on to explain that when she looked at the inside of the book, it was filled with advice from the students for her first year of teaching. “They wrote things like 'have parties' and 'give candy.' I thought this was so cute and funny,” she says amusedly.
But what about the not-so-cute moments? Striegel explains: “One of my biggest challenges was behavior management and being stern with the children when necessary. It is very aggravating when students do not listen or misbehave.” In order to properly deal with misbehaving children, Striegel explained there was a behavior management plan already put in place by the teacher, which she had been using since the beginning of the year. This plan stresses the importance of educating the children on the consequences that poor behavior has, as well as the privileges they earn when they exhibit good behavior.
Of her cooperating teacher at St. Leo the Great, Streigel notes she was “very helpful. She showed me all types of resources that I was able to use in the class with the students and that I will be able to use in the future.” When Striegel first arrived at St. Leo the Great, her cooperating teacher answered every question she had, and she closely guided Striegel in preparation for the three weeks she would take over the classroom. “During these three weeks I was to implement my own lessons and ideas. She really gave me freedom in the classroom and with the students,” Striegel says. “I used many of the teaching strategies I observed from her with the students while incorporating some of my own. We were able to communicate and work together in order to ensure a positive experience for both the students and myself.”
As for plans after graduation, Striegel wants to go on to get her master’s degree. “I am debating between Buffalo State College and Canisius. I am almost positive I want to get a master’s degree in special education,” she says.
When asked where she sees herself in five years, Striegel answered, “I see myself with a master’s degree teaching students with special disabilities. I hope to stay local, but it will depend on job opportunities.” Wherever she does end up, it's easy to see that Striegel is already a perfect fit for her chosen career.