COE student awarded for student teaching

One day, during one of her education classes at Butler University, Karly Keiper became upset.
An in-class speaker was attempting to display to Keiper and her classmates how it feels to live with a learning disability.
Keiper’s teacher, special education instructor Theresa Knipstein-Meyer, said the speaker received a passionate and powerful reaction from Keiper.
“Karly couldn’t understand how she has been able to accomplish so much in her life (compared to others),” Knipstein-Meyer said. “But overcoming that was a hurdle she was going to have to accept and learn about.”
Keiper’s desire to do so has helped her become a well-known name in Butler’s College of Education and a well-known student teacher off campus.
The senior early middle childhood education major saw her work with special needs and less fortunate children lead to an award last month.
The Indiana Council for Exceptional Children honored Keiper with the Outstanding Student Chapter Teacher of the Year award on Feb. 21.
Keiper said she had no idea she was receiving the honor until her name was announced at the recent ceremony.
“Butler University is full of talented, intelligent people,” Keiper said. “I honestly thought it was one of my peers.
“When they called my name, I was like, ‘Oh, wow.’”
Keiper’s family was in attendance for what Knipstein-Meyer called “a big celebration.”
Knipstein-Meyer is the state adviser for the Indiana Council for Exceptional Children and said Keiper was the award’s best candidate.
Teaching became Keiper’s passion after having “a really excellent third grade.” However, she did not decide to work with special needs students until her junior year at Butler, spurred partially by the opinions of her godmother, also a special education teacher.
“After taking a few classes, I wasn’t sure it was for me,” Keiper said. “It intrigued me, but I didn’t know if I wanted to go full into special ed(ucation) or just have a few kids with special needs in my general-ed class.”
Keiper currently serves as a student teacher at Allisonville Elementary and held the same position at Rousseau McClellan Elementary last semester.
Keiper brings her services to a class of 35 students, but she doesn’t work with all of them at the same time. She said she spends mornings making sure special needs students comprehend the material they learn in their general education class and helps them understand concepts they might be struggling with.
She also instructs small groups of as many as 10 students in reading and math.
“It’s a lot of differentiated instruction,” Keiper said. “I just need to be there to support them. There’s a lot going on, but it’s really fun.”
But Keiper’s work is not restricted to the typical elementary school.
Keiper has served as an ambassador of sorts for the Indianapolis U.S. Dream Academy, said Darla Hudnall, the organization’s mentor coordinator.
The Dream Academy is an after-school program for third through sixth grade Indianapolis Public Schools students who have a parent incarcerated.
The program provides mentors and a teacher who tutors students. Keiper started with the group in the former role, taking on a third-grade student and her best friend, a fourth-grade student, at the same time.
“It was honestly one of the best things that ever happened to me,” Keiper said. “Just to be part of their lives, to hear their stories. I was really blessed to have that opportunity.”
Hudnall said Keiper—the first Butler student she recruited to be a mentor—is beloved by the Dream Academy students, describing her as “magnetic.”
In addition to mentoring for the program, Keiper helped the Dream Academy become the philanthropy for Butler’s Sigma Nu chapter.
As a result, the Dream Academy receives funds from Sigma Nu’s yearly Voodoo, as well as the services of some fraternity members.
“I have anywhere from 15 to 25 men at Sigma Nu who volunteer every week just from Karly being an ambassador,” Hudnall said. “It’s always a challenge to get men to volunteer in such a role, as a mentor.”
Keiper said she enjoys teaching special needs students and those who may not have the opportunities of other students their age.
“They’re just as talented, they have just as many dreams and goals as students who have been blessed without any disorders or a family who is loving and supporting,” Keiper said. “I guess my mission is to let every child know they can pursue their dreams.”
Knipstein-Meyer said it is important for college students pursuing a career in education to consider a path in special needs teaching, like Keiper did.
“When you’re a great teacher, you look at all learners,” Knipstein-Meyer said. “(Being a good) teacher, excellence and leadership (is) a combination in special ed that’s going to take her far.”
Kepier said she would like to continue teaching in special education once her time at Butler comes to an end. And she has a message she hopes to preach to her future students.
“(I want to be) the person that says, ‘No, the people who are telling you that you can’t do it are very wrong,’” Keiper said. “’You can.’”

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