Education student voices for teaching at local and national level
He was only 7 years old. As a self-proclaimed trouble maker, he believed he would not go anywhere in life. Yet, he had early signs of leadership and strength, according to his teacher.
In class, the boy was assigned to play the role of a king. His teacher told him to be courageous and speak with pride. At the end of the day, the teacher told him he was a natural-born leader, and he had a responsibility to act that way for his peers.v
When the end of the year rolled around, the teacher was handed a crumpled note by that 7-year-old boy. The note read:
Thank you for being our teacher Ms. Amy. I will miss you because you help me believe in myself.
“I knew from that point on that I had to be at least one more child’s cheerleader,” said Amethyst Stegbauer. “Someone to believe in them even if it was just for one school year.”
As a UMD Integrated Elementary and Special Education student, Stegbauer has been a “cheerleader” for many different students in many different schools and districts. Yet, her passion for children and education goes beyond the walls of a classroom.
“She is an advocate for people, especially children, and for decency,” professor Helen Mongan-Rallis said.
Professor Mongan-Rallis has worked with Stegbauer for the UMD Education and Human Service Professions Technology Council and as Stegbauer's professor in class.
“In all of my years here, I have never met a student that has such confidence, poise and leadership,” Mongan-Rallis said. “She’s a leader in not just the classroom, but a leader in education.”
In her freshman year, Stegbauer was elected to be on the board of Education Minnesota Student Association (EMSA). She was later appointed to president, and won the UMD Student Leadership award for her dedication to EMSA.
“She sees opportunities and has a way of mobilizing people,” Mongan-Rallis said.
Among various other activities and clubs at UMD, Stegbauer was previously elected as the Secretary for the State Student Program for Education Minnesota and, this year, she was elected as the vice president. She is also a student director on the National Education Association’s board of directors.
“There are times that I ask myself if I really want to stand in front of a classroom all day,” Stegbauer said. “Then I go to these meetings, and I realize that I have to because of how important these issues are.”
Through her various positions, Stegbauer has been able to attend conferences and meet people across the nation. She was given the opportunity to visit the offices of Senator Amy Klobuchar and Senator Al Franken. She was also able to meet Congressman Rick Nolan.
“He talked about how funding for education was going away, and once it’s gone, we will realize why we needed it,” Stegbauer said about Rick Nolan.
Stegbauer has always been passionate about teaching. The various roles have made her a representative for aspiring educators, a voice for education in the Midwest and an advocate for children’s rights across the nation.
“She’s not afraid to address issues that people tiptoe around,” Mongan-Rallis said, “and we need that kind of leadership in education.”
According to Beth Anderson, Education Minnesota Field Staff member, Stegbauer has a skill set for advocacy and believes in the power of students’ voices to change policy.
“What really struck me was how interested she was in having aspiring teachers have a voice at the state and national level,” Anderson said.
Balancing three jobs, numerous club and association meetings and traveling from state to state for conferences, Stegbauer's passion is what keeps her going.
“It gives me the drive I have always had for education by going to these events and seeing how critical and how important the issues are,” Stegbauer said.
Stegbauer has plans to teach in a classroom after graduation. However, her lifelong goals involve taking further steps in advancing education as an institution.
“I’ve wanted to teach all my life,” Stegbauer said. “However, in the future I can see myself doing something for education, rather than being in the process of education.”
After a teaching career, Stegbauer is hoping to take that experience and use it to fight for funding and new policies in schools.
“I just want to do anything with children and their rights to getting the appropriate education that they deserve,” Stegbauer said.