Rebecca Dickson, Reporter
The soccer ball whizzes past his ears. Tracking the ball across the field, student Lucas Strong prepares to make another suggestion to the children he coaches.
With just one month before he transfers to the Central Washington University satellite campus at Pierce College Fort Steilacoom, some may think Strong is leaving his coaching behind. However, Strong, who’s expected to graduate with an associate degree at the end of spring quarter, plans to continue his coaching in a multitude of ways, one of which is obtaining a degree in teaching.
“(CWU has) a really good education program and it was really easy to get resources for them because they have an office at the other campus,” Strong said. “So it was easy to get in contact and just make sure everything was going smoothly.”
The decision to go to the university was made in part because of the structure of the program.
“In the education program, it’s like cohorts,” Strong said. “For the most part, you’re working with the same group of people. It creates that small community that you’d find working in a school, working with other teachers.”
This experience, along with the quality of the program and ease of transition into the program, is something Strong likes. Strong is also able to stay home and study, which saves money on housing and food costs.
“The farthest I’ll have to go is Des Moines and that’s only for, I think, summer classes,” Strong said. “I can stay at home, stay with my family and keep that support (system) going.”
Strong’s relationship with his family started early. The second youngest of five siblings, Strong will most likely be the first in his family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. He will be the third in his family to get an associate degree.
Strong said his youngest sibling, his sister, will be graduating from high school this year. While she’s in the Running Start program at Pierce College, she won’t finish her degree this year. Because of this, she will be continuing at Pierce in the fall.
“My mom started at Central for a short while, and then she had my oldest brother and stopped attending,” Strong said. “(Getting a bachelor’s degree will) be a little more challenging, but I don’t think it’ll be very far off from what I’m used to.”
Despite the challenges, Strong says that he has a strong passion for teaching. This stems from tutoring math early on in his education career.
“In middle school, I found out I was really good at math,” Strong said. “So, I decided, after tutoring a lot of my friends, that I wanted to teach math. I really didn’t like my math teacher in middle school. He was really bad at teaching, and so, me then being successful in both instructing myself, just from the readings, and then in helping (my friends) to gain a better understanding, was kind of like, ‘Oh, I can do this. This is really good.’”
With this interest in teaching, Strong took a lifelong interest of his, soccer, and turned it into a teaching experience.
His experience with soccer started at a young age.
“(I was) probably about four when I was on a soccer field wearing tiny cleats,” Strong said.
Now, he coaches several family members and others, including some of his young nieces and nephews.
“I coach in the fall,” Strong said. “It’s come full cycle. First I was the micro, and then as I got into about 10-12 (years old), my sister started coaching me. And so, she was my coach for a few years, and now she has kids and I coach them.”
Strong is hoping to potentially transfer this skill of coaching to a public middle school, granted they have a soccer program. While he wants to teach middle school mathematics, he can see himself coaching as well as teaching seventh grade students using an alternative method.
While most math classes are based around lecture and homework, Strong wants to base his teachings around a kinetic learning model.
“I would love to do more activities where instead of just sitting in a classroom and talking about models and things, we can actually go out, take measurements, work with things and see how you can apply math to real life situations, rather than just theories,” Strong said.
This desire came mostly from his high school. Strong went to an alternative high school, which he said he loved because of the fast-paced classes and unique learning opportunities.
“Instead of four quarters, it was eight terms, so you’d get half as many credits at a time, but you’d get them twice as fast and just transition really quickly between classes,” Strong said. “I loved that. The location was actually on an old farm, so pretty much all the science classes were based around going around and doing things instead of being cooped up in a classroom.”
One downside to this high school was the lack of opportunities he had to further his math education and skill-set. Strong said he didn’t have many opportunities for advanced math, but he was able to learn more with his time at Pierce.
“I’ve studied as much math as I can,” Strong said. “I got into college and got through pre-calculus, and then I was told that calculus classes wouldn’t help with my transfer, so I didn’t go any farther than that, but I wanted to.”
Overall, Strong’s biggest motivation is seeing the progress with his students.
“Being able to work with people, and in this case, students, and just see the progression and see them go from ‘I don’t necessarily understand this’ or ‘I need help understanding this’ to ‘Ok, I can do this’ (is impactful to me),” Strong said. “Or sometimes, it’s a lot more drastic, and it’s like ‘I don’t want to know this’ and now ‘Oh my gosh, I’m really good at this. Can I learn more?’ It’s a big transition, and being a teacher, being an instructor of any kind, you get to see that transition happen, and know that it was like, ‘I helped guide that as much as I could.’”
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