Since joining the NC State College of Education in 2007, Lecturer and University Supervisor Betsy Knight can’t remember a day she didn’t enjoy.
Knight is an instructor for several courses, including ELM 370: Classroom Management Seminar and ELM 250: Introduction to Elementary Education in a Global Society, as well as a supervisor for undergraduate students in the elementary education program who engage in field experiences from their sophomore through senior years.
“I believe every student teacher has a gift to share with their students. It is my job to encourage them to fine tune their gift and build relationships with their students by planning engaging lessons that hook their interests and engage them in the content,” Knight said.
Students in the elementary education program first enter a classroom as an observer during their sophomore year, which Knight says helps them to learn early on if teaching is really their calling. During their junior year, students spend one semester working in K-2 classrooms and another in grade 3-5 classrooms before finally working as student teachers from August through April of their senior year.
As a supervisor, Knight completes weekly check-ins with her student teachers, conducts at least four formal observations for her supervisees each semester and informally visits their classrooms on a weekly basis.
She said her goal when observing students during their student teaching year is to focus on their strengths while gradually addressing focus areas that could use improvement and to make the feedback more digestible and easier to work on.
“She was always super encouraging and enthusiastic and even when I was feeling iffy about teaching, Betsy Knight made me feel like I was in the right place and thriving in my major,” said Emily Barrett ‘21.
Barrett said she appreciated that Knight spent time in class not only addressing the course material, but making sure that students were doing well mentally and felt prepared to teach. If students expressed worries about subjects ranging from the edTPA to classroom budgeting, Knight would address them immediately, she said.
In her day-to-day work, Knight said that she frequently refers back to her own experiences as an elementary school teacher in Wake and Johnston counties. She often shares stories about various scenarios she encountered in her own public school classrooms related to classroom management, building relationships with students and families, and keeping a classroom welcoming and work-oriented at the same time.
Barrett said that she particularly remembers a lesson Knight taught on how to build a responsive classroom by incorporating elements like morning meetings and one-on-one meetings with students even during remote learning.
“She taught a lot of amazing things about having a responsive classroom and I learned a lot of ways to have a personal relationship with kids even through virtual learning, which I felt like I struggled with at first,” Barrett said. “I was able to take what she was doing and teaching and apply it to my own classroom.”
Students said they value the effort Knight puts into building personal relationships with each of them, which is something she said drew her to a career in education in the first place.
“Connecting with my students and building solid relationships came naturally to me and finding various ways to meet my students where they are and support their learning has always undeniably been my passion,” she said. “I wake up every day excited to get to work and I can’t picture myself in any other field.”
Josie Thompson ‘21 said she appreciates that Knight genuinely cares about her students and is always understanding of circumstances that may occur in their personal lives and works with them to help them succeed. She is also always available to them if they need help.
“She’s always ready. If I need to call her at 7:30 in the morning with a problem going on at school, she’s there to answer,” Thompson said.
Although Knight wants her students to remember the information she shares with them during classes, she really hopes that her students remember how she was there for them and continue to demonstrate that level of compassion in their own future classrooms.
“I want my students to remember the ways I engaged them in class and how, together, we built a classroom community that was safe, rich with discussion and inviting of various perspectives. The overarching theme I’d like them to take with them is that a teacher should continuously be responsive to their students,” she said.