Minds and movement

Aspiring teacher Nicki Krautkremer found her calling in the dance studio

Dance has always been a big part of Nicki Krautkremer’s life. She started dancing when she was little, and by the end of high school, she was teaching tap and ballet to children as young as four years old.

“I enjoyed every single minute of it,” she says.

Yet she was surprised that dance set her on the path of her eventual career. She was working on her bachelor’s degree in elementary education foundations when, during a practicum, she found herself in a classroom with students dancing to learn different concepts and angles.

“As the teacher shouted, ‘Perpendicular!’ the students would make a cross with their arms,” she remembers. “And I thought, ‘Wow, this is going to be me!’”

Krautkremer graduated with her bachelor’s degree in the spring and started the initial licensure program in elementary education this summer. She is thrilled about her year-long placement.

“When I was in elementary school, I used to cry on the last day of the year—I didn’t want to say goodbye to my teachers—I loved them,” says Krautkremer. “I want to have that same kind of impact on my students, getting to know them from the moment they come in the door in September.”

Throughout the coming year, Krautkremer will have the opportunity to build strong relationships with her students and her co-teacher, the experienced teacher with whom she will be paired. Up to this point, she has been in many classrooms as part of practica. Now she is eager to experience that teacher role.

“I’m looking forward to making lesson plans and figuring out what works and what I will need to do tomorrow to reach the students that are struggling,” she says. “I know that’s the hard part about teaching, but I’m excited to go through it myself—to finally apply everything that I’ve been learning.”

Learning to lead

Krautkremer’s energy and enthusiasm are contagious, so it is no surprise that she is co-president of the new University of Minnesota chapter of Education Minnesota, the statewide teachers union.

When she arrived at the University, Krautkremer was frustrated that there weren’t more education-focused student groups to join. When opportunity knocked, she met the call head on. She heard about plans to start an Education Minnesota chapter at the U in a class last fall.

“I was like, ‘Oh! Awesome!’” she says. “I was looking for a way to get involved.”

Five students attended the initial meeting to talk about what it would take to start the chapter. Krautkremer was among those who went to an Education Minnesota conference that weekend. There they met with other chapters from across the state. Right away, the U students started writing a constitution and bylaws, and elected officers. The first official year of the education-focused student group was 2013.

“It’s been a lot of work trying to build membership and putting on events, all while being a full-time student,” says Krautkremer, “but it’s given me lots of new experiences. For example, this year I’ve gone to conferences in Las Vegas and San Diego. It’s been very rewarding.”

Finding balance among school, Education Minnesota, and home has been a challenge, but for someone with her passion and vitality, activities that give life meaning are essential. So, when asked if she would go back to the studio to teach dance one night a week this fall, Krautkremer had to consider it, even with the rigor of the licensure program.

“It will depend on my placement,” she says. “If I can fit it in, I’m going to do it!”

Learn more about the elementary education foundations program and the initial licensure/M.Ed. program in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction.

Story by Kristin Van Dorn | June 2014