Cole Johnson Jensen’s enthusiasm for working with young children is contagious. That’s one of the reasons the early childhood education major is a perfect fit for him. He finds the social and emotional development of toddlers and preschool children endlessly exciting.
“The rapid rate of change in young children and watching their sense of discovery is really interesting to me,” he says.
Johnson Jensen grew up in Minneapolis, where his parents are public school teachers. He is inspired by their dedication to the field.
“I know my parents work so hard, and I know they face frustrations,” he says, “but I also see their intense gratification when something goes right.”
Johnson Jensen was born in Mexico while his parents were teaching abroad, and he knew from a young age that he wanted to be a teacher, too. But he wasn’t sure what age level he wanted to teach or where to get his degree. He hesitated about coming to the University of Minnesota because he thought all of his classes would be large lectures, but in the College of Education and Human Development, he found the opposite to be true.
“All of the classes I’ve had in CEHD have been small—often smaller than the classes I had in high school,” he says. “I’ve also had great instructors who are not only interested in the subject matter but, because they are also educators, they are thinking about the best ways to teach students.”
Associate professor Rashne Jehangir taught Johnson Jensen’s First Year Inquiry class. She connected him to opportunities related to his academic interests. He became a teaching assistant for Jehangir, who later played a role in helping him get a job at the Community Child Care Center on the St. Paul campus. That preschool position solidified his decision to teach young children.
“Seeing what the job really was and working alongside experienced teachers has been so helpful,” says Johnson Jensen. “Babysitting had prepared me for working at a preschool, but dealing with bigger and more diverse groups of kids really changes the equation.”
Johnson Jensen is interested in teaching abroad at some point, but he doesn’t want to miss seeing the children at the child-care center for as long as he can.
“That would be painful!” he says.
Johnson Jensen plans to complete his master’s degree in elementary education, and hopes to teach in Minneapolis or St. Paul.
“The Twin Cities have some of the most amazing students and teachers,” he says. “I’ve seen that through my own education, and I want to continue to improve it.”
Johnson Jensen says he’s also proud to be a CEHD student because of the diversity among students and instructors. He’s just beginning his major coursework but already feels a sense of community among the other students in his major. He can’t wait for what’s next.
“I’ve always thought of teaching as the job that I can see myself doing for the rest of my life,” he says, “really being committed to it.”
Story by Christina Clarkson | February 2015