In Focus

Broadening Horizons, Capturing Ideas

By Jill Fishbaugh
MMU students visit a school near Canterbury, England, during spring break 2013

MMU students at the time, Michael Young ’14Brittney Jackson ’14Maddie Trefz ’16, and Emily Mattke ’14, visit a school near Canterbury, England, during spring break 2013.

Since 2009, Mount Mercy education students have had the opportunity to study abroad in Canterbury, England, as part of an exchange partnership with Christ Church University.

Each year over spring break, approximately 10 MMU students and two faculty visit the United Kingdom, and in January about eight Christ Church University (CCU) education students choose to visit Cedar Rapids.

Ellen Warrington, professor of education, says the program is beneficial in many ways, giving students exposure to how others think about education and what they focus on. “Students see how policy is created, how teachers are prepared, and they learn the commonalities and differences in education philosophies,” she says.

“These experiences spark thinking for how to incorporate and adapt their ideas into the classroom,” says Ellen Warrington, professor of education. “It also broadens horizons to what it means to be a teacher here and elsewhere.”

MMU students participated in CCU education courses and visited rural and urban schools in Canterbury. They even spent time at a forest school, where everything is taught outside and students enjoy hands-on learning in nature.

The forest school was a great source of inspiration. “When I saw how independent these young students were, and how much they were learning by simply experiencing nature, I knew this was something I would want to apply to my own teaching,” Annie Feltes ’18 says.

MMU students learning at a forest school near Canterbury, England, during spring break 2017.

MMU students at the time, Annie Feltes ’18, Kelsey Carson ’18, Tiana Thompson ’18, Kara Visek ’17, Iris Strong ’18, and Andrea Coats ’17, discover how nature improves independent learning at a forest school near Canterbury, England, during spring break 2017.

And much was learned from the standard schools as well. “One thing I would like to apply to my teaching is the amount of hands-on project work,” says Kelsey Carson ’18. “From the moment you walked into the school, you saw student work everywhere and you immediately knew what these students had learned.”

MMU students appreciated the similarities educators have across countries and cultures.

“The best thing I learned from this experience is how U.S. and U.K. teachers are so similar in our passion and drive to help future generations,” says Carson, “and how we, as a group of professionals, are always changing and trying new things to help our students in any way we can.”

MMU students also respected the differences they saw between the two systems, where U.K. elementary teachers are responsible for teaching all the subjects, including foreign language, music, art, and gym, as well as the immense amount of stress they are under to get students prepared for high-stakes tests that occur at certain grade levels.

“I can’t imagine how U.K. teachers handle that sort of pressure,” Feltes says. “This caused some major self- reflection. Teachers in America feel pressured to meet all the standards and to have time for everything, but how do U.K. teachers do it with almost double the content? This led me to appreciate what they do even more!”

In Iowa, the CCU students were placed in three local elementary schools (Arthur, Garfield, and St. Matthew) for three weeks and enjoyed living with an MMU roommate and being immersed in MMU culture.

Anthony Clarke, CCU senior lecturer, says his students learned a great deal about the alternative educational systems and themselves. “This was such a rewarding experience for them,” Clarke says. “I can see they have become more mature, compassionate, humble, and resilient students. ■

Teaching Staying Power


For the past two years, 100% of MMU’s teacher education students got teaching jobs upon graduation.


In the past five years, 98% of MMU’s teacher grads are still teaching. This means, once hired, they stay in the profession.