Teaching on an Indian reservation
When Cameron Johnson walks into an elementary school classroom, she breathes a
sigh of relief and smiles.
For her, it's exactly where she's supposed to be.
"In the classroom, I'm able to dance and teach with enthusiasm, stand on tables,
make students move around and have energy themselves," says Cameron, a graduate
education student in curriculum and instruction. "It's important for them to believe
in themselves at such a young age. I didn't necessarily have that; I loved learning,
but I didn't like school. I want to make it for them the way I wish it had been
Originally from Charleston, S.C., Cameron came to LaGrange College as an undergraduate
transfer student from a university in Ohio. She thought she would major in pre-medicine
and become a pediatrician until she shadowed someone in the medical field and realized
it wasn't her calling. Because she enjoyed children, she decided early childhood
education would be a good fit.
"I just fell in love with it," says Cameron, who earned her bachelor's degree
in early childhood education from LaGrange College in 2012. "Since I've been at
the college, I've had field experiences in each grade, and I student taught fifth-graders
at Franklin Forest Elementary."
She says rather than her teaching youngsters, they instead have taught her.
"I didn't realize how much they would impact me," says Cameron, who is working
as a graduate assistant in the college's Office of Student Engagement while she
pursues her master's degree. "The experience has shown me how uniquely created
we all are. I've truly been able to see how every student is smart, every student
has a gift, and every student has potential."
While at LaGrange College, Cameron also had an internship at a local cognitive
therapy center and worked directly with a child who has autism. Because the child
and his family live in New York and travel to LaGrange for the specific learning
the center provides, Cameron spent several weeks in New York with him.
She also interned at Ault Academy in LaGrange, which is part of a residential
program that serves the needs of behaviorally and emotionally disturbed middle-
and high-school-age males. And this summer, she will travel with LaGrange College's
Education Department to the United Kingdom, where the group will observe classrooms.
Some students will present their master's theses to a board there.
She says the Education Department's faculty members have made her experience at
LaGrange College transformative.
"I came here still trying to figure out who I was, what I believed in, where my
faith was, and if I even had faith," she says. "Coming here was definitely supposed
to happen for me. I have been able to search and ask questions about who I am and
who I want to be. My professors have shown me there are no bad questions, no judgment.
This has transformed me in seeing life as a learning experience, as a journey and
not a destination."
Cameron plans to teach on an Indian reservation after she earns her master's degree.
"I went to Arizona to visit, and I shadowed my sister-in-law, who is a nurse,"
she says. "I'm just fascinated by the culture and laws surrounding Indian reservations,
and the more I research it, the more fascinated I become."
Cameron says many of the families on the Indian reservation she visited do not
see education as a necessity, and through her visit, she saw how the U.S. government
sends teachers to the reservation so the Indian people can learn strategies, but
those teachers do not stay. She also saw how secluded the reservation is from its
"There's a language barrier, and on top of that, the students are taught our ways,
our culture," she says. "The education they're given now separates them from their
own traditions. It really saddens me that their culture is taken out of their learning
experience. Their culture is so rich, and their history is so rich, and I want
to be able to teach them where they can keep that as part of their education."