Courtney Van Beek ’18
First-grade teacher, Belmond, Iowa
Courtney Van Beek

Top of the class

Courtney teaches first grade and coaches the junior high volleyball team for the Belmond-Klemme Community School District in Iowa. She was so impressive during her job interview that one colleague said she would have hired her based solely on her teaching demonstration. Courtney doesn’t miss all the tests she had to pass to become a teacher, but she still likes being graded—especially when it's feedback like the classroom observer who told her, “You’re a rock star!”

What does your job involve?

As a teacher, I wear a lot of hats. I’m an educator, nurse, counselor and mentor. In first grade, I teach phonics, reading and writing, math, social studies and science lessons. I’m teaching my students every day to believe in themselves, work hard and become lifelong learners.

Did you always know you wanted to be a teacher?

I started at Northwestern thinking I wanted to major in elementary education, but I wasn’t 100 percent sure. Before the first semester of my freshman year ended, I knew this was really what I wanted to do—primarily because I had been in a number of classroom settings already. By the end of the first semester of my sophomore year, I knew I wanted to teach younger elementary grades—again, because I was able to observe and help in a variety of classrooms through my courses at NWC.

How well did Northwestern prepare you for your career?

At Northwestern, the education department does a fantastic job of getting students in the classroom early, starting with the first semester of your freshman year—and those opportunities continue each year, concluding with student teaching. All of the classroom observation time and hands-on experience was so valuable for learning and preparing me for my future classroom.

What has shaped you the most regarding your chosen profession?

Getting into the classroom is important because you learn from various teachers and figure out what kind of teacher you want to be someday. I earned more than 500 practicum hours related to diversity, service, leadership, the STEM fields and tutoring. My student-teaching experience was life changing. I was assigned to the kindergarten and ECIS preschool rooms at Clark Elementary in the Le Mars Community School District. The teachers I worked with were a perfect fit for me. They challenged me, and I learned a lot from them. Part of the teacher I am today is due to what I learned during student teaching.

In what other ways did Northwestern prepare you for the future?

Certainly dorm and apartment living prepared me for life beyond college. I’m an only child and never had to share a room or toys with a sibling. Life with roommates was good for me; I made lifelong friendships. Northwestern also encourages its students to be involved in campus life. I was part of many intramural teams, belonged to the Red Ed Club, served as an admissions ambassador, and worked in the student center. Life as an NWC student was very busy—and that was my choice. I feel prepared now to juggle how busy I am with teaching, lesson planning, grading, meetings and coaching.