When bilingual educator Danielle Froehlich ’13 first started classes at Illinois State, she already knew she wanted to be a teacher. In fact, she first expressed an interest in the profession at her kindergarten graduation.

That day, Froehlich and her 6-year-old classmates were asked to tell their audience what they wanted to be when they grew up.

“And when I walked across our makeshift stage, I said I wanted to be a teacher,” Froehlich said.

Danielle Froehlich ’13

Danielle Froehlich ’13

While Froehlich’s knowledge of the profession was limited, she did know one thing: she wanted to be just like her teachers.

“And as I grew up, I never changed my mind because my teachers were always my role models, and my most memorable experiences are with those great teachers,” Froehlich said.

Fast-forward 16 years, she again spoke about becoming a teacher on her Commencement day—this time at her graduation from Illinois State.

As Froehlich composed lasting message for her fellow graduates, she remembered not one, but all of the inspiring teachers who had challenged her, helped her grow, and made her smile. Froehlich said that for her, those educators’ passion was contagious and stayed with her throughout her education.

In her Commencement speech, Froehlich reminded each graduate of the passion that led them to their chosen profession:

Passion is arguably the most vital attribute that we possess as teachers. It is our driving force. We wholeheartedly accept the challenges that lie ahead of us because we are doing what we love. We would not be here today if we did not have passion. …

… Passion needs to be rekindled constantly. This happens in the natural bond that forms between student and teacher. We spark the flame, and they keep it burning with their ongoing questions and innocent excitement for learning. As a teacher, observing this excitement or even being part of creating it is a reward that is priceless. What a gift this is!

… We will all confront challenges and hurdles in our new journey. But, as long as we maintain our passion, we can open any door, no matter how heavy it may seem. As long as we maintain our passion, we will always have the power to touch someone’s life and to share our love of learning. Never lose hope, and never let go of the passion. The legacy that we will leave begins today!

When Froehlich first arrived at Illinois State, she learned what it would take for her to capably manage her own classroom.

“I felt very confident in my decision to be a teacher, but I knew very little about teaching,” Froehlich said. “I did not know teaching theory. I did not know what effective practices were or how to accommodate diverse learners.”

Pursuing Her Passion

Recognizing their value to her development as an educator, Froehlich immediately got involved with many of the campus and community service organizations Illinois State offers to students. During her collegiate career, she was an active member of the Student Education Association (SEA), the Student Association for Bilingual Education (SABE), and Epsilon Sigma Alpha, a service sorority. She also served as a teaching assistant in the Department of History. In recognition of her on- and off-campus engagement and academic achievement, Froehlich was selected as a Bone Scholar in 2012.

The experiences Froehlich gained outside of her coursework complemented the skills and knowledge she acquired through Illinois State’s elementary bilingual/bicultural teacher education program. Students who pursue this major complete four years of coursework and clinical experiences in addition to an intensive yearlong student teaching placement at a professional development school (PDS). She also earned two endorsements: English as a Second Language (ESL) and bilingual.

Froehlich said the education she received prior to her PDS placement provided her with a solid foundation for success.

“Through our coursework, we learned a lot about methods and theory, and why it’s important … to preserve each student’s native language and culture,” she said. “That is so vital to helping them learn English and validating their identities.”

Froehlich also benefitted from Illinois State’s commitment to providing every education major with a rich variety of clinical experiences. Among these experiences, she served as a tutor for a student at Thomas Metcalf School, one of the University’s two laboratory schools. Over the course of a full semester, she worked toward the objective of improving the student’s literacy skills.

“That was a great experience because … we were able to evaluate their growth throughout the semester and determine what difference we were making with them,” she said.

Teaching and Learning

Once it became time for student teaching, Froehlich felt ready for the exciting, albeit challenging, time in her development as an educator.

“I think that all the courses and the experiences that we had over our first four years gave us the skills and the knowledge we needed to student teach,” said Froehlich. “We all have the passion, and we all know that we want to be teachers, but if you don’t have enough time to develop those skills, teaching is going to be very overwhelming.”

Froehlich student taught in an inclusive education (IE) classroom and instructed students in Spanish for all but one hour of the day.

“It is unbelievable how much Spanish I learned this year,” said Froehlich. “At the beginning, I was petrified. I didn’t think I was going to have the language to do this work. But I just jumped into it and found out how prepared I really was.”

Froehlich said that in times of difficulty, she leaned on her cooperating teacher for advice, but the exchange of knowledge was mutual.

“She said that she learned a lot from me because I brought in a lot of hands-on and authentic activities,” Froehlich said.

As the semester wore on, Froehlich began to see how she was having an impact on her students, both big and small. In her Commencement speech, she spoke of the ways her students helped her, as well:

… Together, we were learning. I was learning to teach, and they were accepting all that I had to offer with enthusiasm and a natural desire to learn. We were on an adventure together, side-by-side! We journeyed together, shared together, and laughed together.

The Next Step

At the end of her student teaching experience, Froehlich was provided with perhaps the greatest validation of her work—she was offered a job at the very same school where she had student taught.

This fall, Froehlich begins her next journey. In her own classroom, she vows to demonstrate and inspire passion as her childhood role models once did for her.

“Those teachers made a difference in my own life. They changed me. They made me more excited to learn, and they helped me to develop confidence in my abilities,” said Froehlich.

“I am ready to be that role model for someone else.”