WSU alum giving back to his students
By the time Jeff Freund was in fifth grade, he already knew he wanted to be a teacher.
Now, after graduating from Wichita State University’s education program in 1998, Freund is head principal of Coleman Middle School.
This is Freund’s first year at Coleman. He was an assistant principal at North High School before he moved to his current position. Before that, he taught creative writing and language arts for 11 years.
“The middle schoolers have been great during my first year,” Freund said. “They’re awesome.”
For Freund, the experience of going through WSU’s Cooperative Education and Work-Based Learning program made all the difference.
Freund had two years’ worth of working with students before graduation through his WSU co-op experience.
“It prepared me specifically for what I wanted to do, which is finding that passion to teach urban kids and be a leader in that setting,” he said. “I don't think I could have learned that someplace else.
“Teaching in Wichita is a much different experience than my own high school experience. I would have thought that every high school class was like my own, and I would have died as a teacher.”
Freund was the first person in his family to go to college. He grew up in the small town of Conway Springs and making that move to Wichita State was a huge change.
But, Freund said, “WSU’s a great place to get that big-city urban experience 20 minutes from home, and it’s still a safe place.”
When he was in his first year at Wichita State and knew nothing about college culture, Cathy Ellsworth, coordinator of cooperative education and instruction, guided him through the co-op program.
“I have been very fortunate to know and work with Jeff Freund as he began his college career by working on his English/language arts teaching degree,” said Ellsworth. “His energy and enthusiasm for working with students and teachers, and his love for learning are infectious to all who work with him.”
Ellsworth said Freund is an exceptional teacher, mentor and educator, and his students, teachers, administrators, parents and the Wichita community are fortunate to have the opportunity to share his many talents.
“Now he is giving back to WSU and the Wichita community by mentoring and working with many of our WSU co-op future teachers,” she said.
Positive results from co-op
Ellsworth may not have realized how much she helped Freund.
“When you get to college nobody told me that you didn’t have to raise your hand,” Freund said. “You’re supposed to ask more questions than just what they have on the syllabus. That’s where your education comes from.”
From his own experience and from watching other student teachers, Freund has seen the positive results of co-op experience.
“I’ve overseen student teachers who already have the experience of being co-op students and they’re just ready,” Freund said. “They just walk into the room, not tentative or afraid. They just go in and apply their craft. In education, kids know when you’re unsure of yourself, and they pick up on that.
“The confident student teacher has a much better experience. They just come out of it better. They get to do stuff earlier. So for a co-op teacher the first year of student teaching is really your second.”
In his position as principal, Freund gives advice to a lot of potential college students.
“I always recommend to any of my former students who are in school that they should get into co-op,” he said. “There’s nothing worse than doing something you don’t want to do, spending thousands of dollars to find out this is not your calling.
“I love where I’m at and what I do and my experience at WSU made that possible and made the difference for me.”