Education as a Haven
Whitney Harrell, Early Childhood Education
When Whitney Harrell left her home near Louisville, Kentucky, seeking the best approaches to education, she traveled with an intimate understanding of what she sought. Since her youth, school had been a haven where teachers became lifelong friends. "I am still in contact with my kindergarten teacher, senior-year art teacher and most in-between," she says, "because those were the people who sacrificed their lives so that I could be inspired to live mine."
A first-generation high school graduate and the first in her family to attend college, she wanted to make sure she "did it right," test-driving two other institutions before settling on Naropa. Whitney entered the Early Childhood Education program in spring of 2007, took the course "Holistic and Contemplative Teaching Traditions" and never looked back. "It was unlike any class I have ever taken. For starters, the room was filled with people who wanted to be there and enjoyed the material!"
And one cause of this positive environment, she explains, is the simple act of rearranging the desks. "We sit in a circle to display to each other that not one of us is more or less important. Not one of us holds all of the answers.... It is much different than being in stiff, uniform rows of desks where the teacher's desk stands sternly at the front of the room. To me, that environment is one of a power struggle. I feel considered at Naropa. I feel humanized. Not only do my professors know my name, but they go out of their way to make sure I am getting what I want from the courses I take," which, for Whitney, is hands-on experience.
"In half of the classes I took last semester, I was asked to get involved with the community. For me, this is the best way to learn, using my hands and eyes. I learned through taking action."