‘I always have to be doing’: Lindsey Gevers fits Honors College, education and more in under four years

Lindsey Gevers

Lindsey Gevers graduates from UMSL on Saturday with a BS in elementary education and certificates in special education and from the Honors College. (Photo courtesy of Lindsey Gevers)

Every day while living on campus, Lindsey Gevers would reach for her running shoes.

The Pierre Laclede Honors College student would leave her dorm room and wind through campus, then the Bel-Nor neighborhood, onto the wooded, rolling hills of the St. Vincent Greenway and eventually to St. Vincent County Park.

“Running through campus, looking at the kids going to classes, I saw different things you don’t really pay attention to, which was cool,” Gevers said. “It was something of a stress reliever for me. I looked forward to it.”

By the time Gevers graduates from the University of Missouri–St. Louis this week, she’ll have three full marathons and seven half marathons to her name in addition to a BS in elementary education and certificates in special education and from the Honors College.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Gevers. Throughout school she’s worked at the Challenger Learning Center St. Louis and the Kiddie Academy of O’Fallon, taught summer camp at St. Charles Community College, was head coach for the Wentzville Runner2Runner cross country team, student taught, volunteered for Girls on the Run and worked on campus for the Honors College as a peer mentor.

She’s done all this in 3 1/2 years by taking summer courses, maintained a GPA of 3.95 and paid for most of her schooling herself with a combination of work and more than six scholarships, including the Chancellor’s Scholarship and the Peter W. and Helen M. Goode Memorial Scholarship.

To put it another way, Gevers prefers to be busy.

“I’m one of those people,” she said. “If I don’t have anything to do I get anxious. I always have to be doing.”

Gevers’ path to graduation at UMSL started when she was growing up in Wentzville, Missouri, and playing school. Her passion for teaching never dwindled, and after high school, she decided she wanted to study education formally.

Drawn to the College of Education’s focus on working in community schools, Gevers visited UMSL, where she fell in love with the Honors College.

“The class sizes are so small,” she said. “You’re able to develop relationships with the students and the professors, and everyone knew who everyone was. Those are really nice community aspects.”

Some of her favorite classes from her time at UMSL were the off-the-beaten-path Honors College offerings such as “Urban Ecology,” which involved a four-day camping trip for scientific testing, and “Storytelling: The Oral Tradition.”

For the latter, Gevers’ class spent a semester perfecting their storytelling skills before heading to Foam coffee shop for their final, public performance.

“It was such a cool experience,” she said. “It was incredible how good everyone got through the class. It was very intimidating at first but was super fun.”

While honing public speaking skills is doubtlessly valuable for a future teacher, Gevers says it was the focus on discussion-based teaching in the Honors College that really prepared her for the classroom.

That balanced nicely with the skills and knowledge Gevers picked up in the College of Education. One of her favorite things she learned was the way math gets taught now. Instead of being memorization based, math is taught as a critical thinking skill.

“Instead of learning formulas, and things like that, now we teach kids why it works so that you understand numbers,” Gevers said. “One of the things I do now is called number talks, where you just sit with the kids for about 10 minutes, and you literally just talk about numbers and their thinking.”

Science, technology, engineering and math, broadly, is a passion for Gevers, who once thought about focusing on middle-school science. So, it’s understandable that once Gevers learned during her sophomore year that the Challenger Learning Center St. Louis was just down the road and teaching STEM education and simulating space missions, she decided she had to work there.

“When I teach it to the younger guys, I get so excited,” she said. “I love space and STEM and science. It requires a lot of creative thinking. You’re always solving problems. It gives kids an outlet to express themselves creatively.”

Creative thinking and flexibility were also hallmarks of Gevers’ student teaching experience. To stop the spread of coronavirus, her first practicum in spring semester went virtual after spring break. She helped ease the transition to virtual learning for her school and then taught online herself but was glad when they returned to in-person learning for the fall semester.

Teaching amid coronavirus precautions has been interesting and different. Her first graders wear masks, don’t do group work, are spaced apart during lunch and walk down the hallways with their arms outstretched, so they don’t get too close to their peers. Gevers was surprised how good the kids have been about every step.

“They took it very well,” she said. “I think it’s almost because last year they were in kindergarten, and they only got half a year. I think they don’t know any different. Like, ‘Oh, this is what first grade is like.’”

The experience of virtual and then pandemic teaching has prepared Gevers for just about anything. That’s fortunate because she recently took over a kindergarten classroom covering for long-term maternity leave at Flint Hill Elementary, where she student taught.

Though she’d eventually like to return to school for a master’s degree, for the moment she is looking forward to focusing on primary education and her students.

“I like how pure and innocent they are,” she said. “When they’re that age, you can really reach them because they love going to school and learning. I feel very prepared for whatever comes my way because we had to be so flexible. Nothing at this point could surprise me.”

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