Discovering the lifelong learner within

By Tori Hoffman

As an integrated studies major pursuing an Elementary Teacher Certification, sophomore Emma Walton is passionate about learning. Not only is she committed to being a lifelong learner, but she also wants to foster and grow lifelong learners in the students she will come to teach.

With a long line of teachers in her family, Walton loved the idea of being a teacher from a young age. As a child, she would even pretend to play teacher and grade tests. Math and natural sciences had never come easy for her, so she always imagined she would teach social sciences or language arts.

“No one ever told me that I couldn’t do science, but I just always felt that way. I never liked science, I never thought I was good at science. I loved sociology, psychology and history,” Walton said. “So I was so nervous to even be doing a college-level science course.”

When Walton started at SPU, she felt comfortable choosing the social sciences track, one of the six common areas of study that students in the integrated studies major choose as a concentration. There is, however, a set of common courses that all IS majors are required to take, regardless of concentration. These courses include BIO 2571: Introduction to Biology — better known to IS majors as “teacher bio.”

Walton took “teacher bio” in the spring of 2017 and everything about it exceeded her expectations. Not only did she find Assistant Professor of Biology Elena Brezynski to present the material in a very engaging, approachable way, but she also took her first trip to SPU’s 967-acre field station on Blakely Island, Washington.

The weekend trip was intended to apply knowledge from the classroom, and Walton had a blast. She expected to hate the course and struggle through it the whole time. After all, it was supposed to be her one and only college-level science class.

“I ended up learning so much from Dr. Brezynski and I found out that the material was so interesting to me and I was fascinated by it,” Walton said. “It was amazing, and I loved it, and Blakely really sealed that over.”

Sophomore Emma Walton visited Blakely Island earlier this quarter with Dr. Long’s Intro. to Biology course.

For Walton, “teacher bio” exposed her to processes that re-instilled her love of learning, a quality she finds very important in a teacher. Though she felt in her comfort zone in her other classes, Walton says she was engaged in this course, learning new things — including how to learn again.

“Even if I don’t teach science, the skills that you learn in a science classroom are applicable to all ages and all subjects,” Walton said. “Just observing, following a process, running an experiment, you can use that in everything.”

Not only did she love the academic side of the field experience on Blakely, but she also got to swim in the lake, kayak and hike while making wonderful memories with friends.

“Being able go out on that beautiful island and to act like a kid, digging in the mud, identifying things, it was honestly life changing,” Walton said. “So after that, I switched my concentration to natural sciences and this year, I started taking more science classes.”

Walton went to Blakely for a second time in spring 2018 with her BIO 2103: General Biology course, taught by Professor of Biology Eric Long. She said it was just as magical as the first time, and has now made it her goal to take all the courses that go to Blakely so she can go as many times as possible before she graduates.

Walton rediscovered her passion for learning during her “teacher bio” course and changed her concentration within the Integrated Studies major because of it.

Her favorite part of Blakely trips is the hike to Blakely Peak, where she can apply her knowledge of plant life and also take time out of her busy schedule to pause and embrace everything around her. She calls it “refreshing and relaxing.”

Walton hopes to instill the same passion that she has seen in the biology faculty at SPU in her students and to teach them how to be good people and citizens with good values, beyond just being a good student.

“The world is so amazing and there is so much to learn and I just want students to know that,” Walton said.

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