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Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

Wichita State's independent, student-run news source

The Sunflower

‘I have 17 kids’: 20-year-old teacher loves bonding with students

Matty Schrag poses for a photo on her first day of teaching in August. Photo courtesy of Matty Schrag

After wrapping up a day teaching her fourth-grade classroom, Matty Schrag does her own assignments in the evenings — for her Wichita State degree.

At 20-years-old, Schrag is the youngest teacher at Haven Grade School. The elementary education major is a participant in Wichita State’s Teacher Apprentice Program and earned her limited teaching license after being a para educator at Haven during her junior year.

Now a senior, Schrag started running her own class this August, a year before her planned graduation in May.

Attending the Haven school district since sixth grade, Schrag first became interested in teaching after taking education classes in high school. Her teacher motivated her to pursue the career.

“She was awesome and encouraged me every step of the way,” Schrag said.

That same teacher also helped Schrag get into Hutchinson Community College. But before leaving high school, Schrag interned at Haven Grade School, observing Cori Krol’s kindergarten class.

“She kind of welcomed me in and made me a part of her classroom and helps me with my schoolwork if I had any questions about anything,” Schrag said.

That relationship continues, with Krol still being a “huge help” and checking in on Schrag as a fellow teacher.

Schrag stayed involved with Haven Grade School as a substitute during community college. Coming in with college credits, Schrag graduated a year later in 2022, starting at WSU that summer and becoming a para at Haven that school year.

Her pull toward Haven school comes from the accepting community.

“Coming in sixth grade, I realized how welcoming they are, and even moving up to middle school and high school, they just accept everybody,” Schrag said. “(All the schools in Haven) can come together and do what’s best for our schools and our teachers and our children, and I found that out my first day when I came to tour Haven Grade School, and I have loved it since.”

Schrag decided to complete the Teacher Apprentice Program, thanks to encouragement from another sixth grade teacher on a limited license at Haven.

“I talked a lot with that sixth grade teacher, and she helped me a lot and told me … that is this is totally manageable if you can put the time and energy into it, and so I decided that that’s what I wanted to do,” Schrag said.

Jill Wood, the Teacher Apprentice Program coordinator, said that the program partners with the Kansas State Department of Education, allowing students to earn a limited license. They must have completed one year of WSU-approved courses, earned 60 credit hours and been a para educator for a year, among other requirements.

 According to Wood, 688 students are enrolled in the program, as of the first week of classes.

“This program was really creating a pathway for any student who wants to have the opportunity to be a teacher to be in a program and work towards that licensure,” Wood said. 

Through the program, Schrag has embraced the opportunity to teach young. Her job offer at Haven came at age 19, and Schrag said her students and their parents know she is 20 and are accepting of her. 

“They’re along for the ride, and they don’t even really worry about the age. They just look at it as, ‘you’re young and you’re fun,’” Schrag said. “They just care that I’m doing my job and I’m doing it well.”

Haven Grade School Principal Laurel Scott, who has known Schrag since she was a high school student, said she brings energy and excitement to their school.

“She’s just a genuine person, and she’s a great addition to our building,” Scott said.

A month into her first year of teaching, Schrag juggles her classroom and her online coursework, fitting in grading during her lunch break to give her time for WSU work at home.

Schrag also credits her fellow fourth grade teachers, Zaelynn Foth and Joni Allsup, with giving her advice with classroom management skills and strategies to involve the kids. A fan of Haven’s strategies, Schrag said that they have helped motivate the kids and formed connections.

 “We have just became quite a little family in here,” Schrag said. “So I love that, and I tell everybody that those are my kids. I have 17 kids, and they’re all my kids. I love them.”

When asked what she was looking forward to during her first year, Schrag said that “there’s so much.” She is especially interested in watching the kids grow as readers, having switched from a math student to a reading person as a teacher.

“It’s so fun seeing how much they can learn,” Schrag said. “So I’m excited to see how far they can come by the end of the year.”

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About the Contributor
Courtney Brown
Courtney Brown, Former news editor
Courtney Brown was one of the news editors for The Sunflower during the 2023-2024 year. She previously worked as a reporter and assistant news editor. Brown uses she/her pronouns.

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