the Top of their Game
all student teachers are asked to sign autographs. But when
prominent University of Iowa athletes lead a classroom, they
sometimes have to deal with star-struck students.
College of Education student athletes prove that there
is more to them than what you see on the field and on
“ We had to start out with a question and answer session
and an occasional autograph to get that out
of the way,” said Hawkeye Football place kicker Nate
Kaeding (BA ’04), who is currently student teaching
at Wilton High School. “But we have to put that behind
us and worry about the things that are important in the classroom.”
Gallery (BA ’03), one of Kaeding’s teammates
and a fellow All-American, had a similar experience.
“I think at first they were surprised by me,” said
the six-foot seven-inch, 320-pound offensive lineman who student
taught at Lincoln Elementary School in Iowa City. “But
as time went by they got used to me and realized I was there
to be a teacher and not a football player.”
Curt Ritter, whose fourth, fifth, and sixth grade combination
classroom Gallery taught in last spring, said Gallery did a
great job of presenting himself as a teacher.
“He did a really nice job teaching,” Ritter said.
“He did a unit on microscopes and called it microworld.
We really didn’t do anything with football until the last
day when he brought in some of his equipment and the kids got
to try it on.”
Even now that Gallery is expected to be chosen early in the
first round of the NFL draft April 24 and 25, Ritter said his
students think of Gallery more like a teacher than a player.
“I think the kids really aren’t so into where is
he going in the draft as they just realize he’s a nice
guy and they like for him to be around,” he said.
Fulsaas (BA ’04), a wrestler at Iowa, said he
likes the opportunity to be a role model that both athletics
and teaching provide.
“It’s fulfilling to be able to work and communicate
with children,” he said.
Fulsaas, who specializes in special education, said he usually
puts in over 20 hours per week training, practicing, and competing
in wrestling during the season.
“I’ve had to learn how to prioritize my life,”
he said, “and academics come first.”
Fred Mims, director of Athletic Student Services, said it’s
his staff’s job to encourage students like Kaeding, Gallery,
and Fulsaas to succeed in academics as well as sports. And it’s
worked—all three of the players achieved honor roll status.
“We try to be supportive and encourage them when time
demands become a challenge, and encourage them to look at what
they want to do with their lives in the long term,” Mims
who was named Big Ten Wrestler of the Week Dec. 18 and won the
Hawkeye’s Most Improved Wrestler Award last season, said
he is drawn to teaching because of the influence of teachers
in his life. Fulsaas said he and his twin brother, Randy, struggled
in the classroom as youngsters.
“We were always around support staff growing up,”
Fulsaas said. Now that he’s been named Academic All Big
Ten, he really appreciates the work of that staff.
Gallery, who majored in elementary education and specialized
in math, was influenced to major in education by one of his
high school basketball coaches.
“I was really impressed with the way he worked with us
on the basketball team and how he taught us as a junior high
teacher,” Gallery said. “The impact he had on me
made me want to be able to do that for someone else.”
Kaeding, who holds The University of Iowa’s record for
the most points scored in a season and has a shot at being the
first kicker drafted this year, was drawn to teaching because
of his love for history. In his current student teaching assignment,
he leads a freshman American history class in Wilton.
“ I’ve always had a passion for history,”
Kaeding said. There was another motivator, too.
“I’m not the kind of person that can be stuck behind
a desk. I want to get out there and help develop young people’s
lives,” he said. “Teaching is a very rewarding profession.”
Mims said that even though Gallery, Kaeding and Fulsaas have
all achieved such success that they could seek careers in athletics
after school, he knows their hearts are in teaching.
“Each of these young men is a caring individual who knows
that the way to benefit society is to contribute to the growth
and development of young people,” he said. “We need
more people with these types of attitudes.”
Fulsaas plans to teach after he graduates in May, but won’t
have time to actively look for jobs until after the wrestling
season is over.
Kaeding and Gallery are both expected to join NFL teams, they
both say they hope to return to teaching some day.
“I think I first realized I could go to the NFL at the
end of last season,” Gallery said. “But I really
wanted to get something out of my college experience. I wanted
something else that I would be able to do and enjoy in life.”
Kaeding added that just because he may make it into the NFL,
that doesn’t mean he can stay.
“Football is a very competitive job market—there
are only 32 positions for what I do in the whole world,”
Kaeding said. “Every year you have to fight for your job.
You can be out as quickly as you got into the profession.”
So having his teaching degree is an excellent way to stay at
the top of his game. – by Heather McElvain