Everyone thought Sue George would be a teacher — after all, her father was her elementary school principal. “He never pushed me that way, but it was just what everyone thought I would be good at. I fought it for a long time! I went into college undeclared but just kept coming back to education.” Now, she’s glad she saw in herself what everyone else did. “I think for a lot of people, teaching is just a part of who they are. You know it in your heart.” She has been with Missouri State about 20 years and still believes in her field: “There’s no greater reward than seeing children learn and showing them their own potential.”
Q: You are being profiled because students say you’re a great teacher. What do you think makes a teacher great?
A: Great teachers know their content inside and out. But more than that, they know how to engage students. A good teacher listens to students to find out what they need to get out of the class. That means a good teacher must be flexible. For example, I recently had a group who are about to student-teach for the first time, and they had lots of questions one day. So we took the first part of class to visit about that.
Q: How else do you encourage students in the classroom?
A: Because my classes are relatively small, we can have a lot of dialogue. If I ask a question and students don’t give me an answer I was looking for, I never say their ideas are wrong because you shut someone down when you say that. I will probe a little to find out why they thought that way. I don’t diminish their opinions, but I use my knowledge and experience to try to instead lead them to concepts that might work better.
Q: You have been in the education field for decades. How does that help you teach University students?
A: I can be honest with students about my own experiences, giving them real examples instead of what’s in a textbook. But I certainly don’t think I know it all: They may be seeing things in the schools when they do their student-teaching that I never saw. New problems, solutions and teaching techniques arise all the time, so it’s important for me to be adaptable.
Q: Why is Missouri State a great choice for students interested in education?
A: When Missouri State was founded it was a school to prepare teachers, and we have continued the tradition of having great education programs. And if you think you want to be a teacher but you’re not sure what kind, the University gives you the benefit of choosing from many options. We certify students to teach all ages from birth through high school. We also prepare them for special education and other specific areas.
Q: How are MSU students prepared for the real world?
A: All education students are required to get experience in the field — they will work with real children in real classrooms. They may work with children of all ages, from infants or toddlers to elementary and up.
Q: What other advantages does Missouri State offer that other schools do not?
A: We have the Child Development Center, an on-campus child-care center and preschool. Children from ages 6 weeks through 5 years come to the center. Education majors, supervised by faculty and staff, can work with these children. I love going to the Child Development Center and being around babies, seeing our students at work and seeing children playing and happy.
Q: What types of jobs do graduates from your program receive?
A: I would say about 95 percent of students who major in early childhood education want to be public school teachers. The majority of my students go on to teach preschool through grade three. Another major in our college is child development. Those graduates go on to work in child care, after-school programs, nonprofit or social-service agencies and other places affiliated with young children and families.
Q: What advice would you give a high school student thinking about education as a major?
A: Do some trial activity related to this field before coming to college. A few examples: Volunteer at a camp, tutor others at school or try your hand at babysitting young children. If it’s for you, it will likely click.
Q: What is the best thing about your job?
A: Working with the students —I get to know all of them. They mature so much between the time they start and finish this program. When they’re finishing their student teaching and getting ready to graduate, they are mature professionals. Probably the greatest joy I have is seeing how they have changed. I hope maybe I have played a little part in that.