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Why would a college student from Idaho ask to student teach at Neligh-Oakdale?
To get back to her family roots.
"My grandpa and my mom went to school here," said Rebekah Whitham.
Whitham is the granddaughter of Levern and Joann Hauptmann of rural Neligh and the daughter of Kenneth and Daniza (Hauptmann) Whitham of Pocatello, Idaho. She is staying with her grandparents while student teaching.
"It's really neat to think that I'm in the same school my mom used to be in, and get to experience a smaller community like she did," she said. "I attended a large high school growing up, so it's really nice to be a part of a smaller school where everyone knows each other and gets along so well."
Whitham, 22, said her hometown of Pocatello, Idaho, has a population of roughly 55,000.
"There were 1,500 people in my high school and 332 in my graduating class," she said.
Whitham said she decided to attend college at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln because they have "a fantastic teaching program" and thought going to a different state would offer some new experiences.
When choosing a location for student teaching, she said UNL usually places students in schools within "a zone" around Lincoln.
"But, I told them that I wanted to come to Neligh, so they made arrangements through Wayne State for me," Whitham said.
Her supervising teacher at Neligh-Oakdale is Lia Heckert.
"I got on the school website and read the bios for teachers," she said. "I decided biology would be interesting so I called (Heckert) and she agreed to have a student teacher."
Whitham said she is happy with her choice to teach at Neligh-Oakdale.
"It took awhile to get used to being called Miss Whitham," she said with a smile. "But it has been wonderful. I couldn't have asked for a better student teaching experience. Based on my experiences here, I would absolutely look at teaching in a smaller town or community."
Whitham said this is because she has gotten more acquainted with Neligh and its citizens.
"At first, it was a bit overwhelming, it seemed like everyone knew everyone else...it look a little while to get used to it," she said. "Now that I've been here for a couple of months, I'm starting to recognize faces and people outside the town, and I really enjoy the close sense of community that you get...the opportunities that you have to really get to know your students and their families personally."
Whitham will graduate from the UNL Teacher's College in May and plans to become a secondary science teacher, but she is not sure where that job will take her.
"I would like to be a full-time science teacher wherever I'm able to get a good job," she said. "This experience has definitely convinced me this is what I want to do."