April 15, 2022
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Huntingdon Teacher Education Students Learn through Poverty Simulation
Montgomery, Ala.—Eighty Huntingdon College students participated in a Poverty Simulation program delivered by the Alabama Association of School Boards, Friday, April 8, in Leo J. Drum Jr. Theater. Participants were teacher education majors and students in the College’s Presidential Fellows Program and Hobbs Honors Program.
“The goal of the simulation is to impress upon emerging leaders and teachers who will serve a wide variety of socioeconomic populations some of the challenges faced by those coping with lower socioeconomic circumstances,” said Dr. Kristin Zimbelman, assistant professor of teacher education.
For the exercise, faculty and volunteers simulated utilities, businesses, law enforcement, education, and employment and social services. Participants were given task cards to be completed within the budgets they were provided.
Dr. Zimbelman had undergone the simulation previously. “Having taught [public school] in four districts—two in Alabama and two in the Chicago area—I felt I had an awareness of socioeconomic challenges, but this demonstration reinforced that there are so many factors that impact a family’s circumstances that are outside one’s control,” said Dr. Zimbelman. “The simulation made me hyper-aware—so much so I thought it would be an invaluable exercise for our upcoming educators and student and community leaders.”
The simulation model was created by the Missouri Community Action Agency as a way of raising awareness of the challenges faced by the working poor. Susan Roundtree Salter, director of leadership development for the Alabama Association of School Boards, and Ava Cranmore, assistant director, are approved trainers and administered the simulation.
“There are a number of agencies, churches, and school systems in Alabama and all over the United States that use this simulation,” said Ms. Salter. “It is a great way to give educators and workers a very different perspective of things they thought they knew.”
Following the simulation, participants discussed the experience.
Natalie Harris, a member of the Class of 2024 who is majoring in elementary teacher education with collaborative special education, said, “I think this was such an important exercise. To remember that everybody is going through different things and that the child can’t do anything about it. The parents may want to do more and try to do more, but they’re stuck. We have to have a way to not call these students out if they don’t have the resources to do certain things.”
“[The simulation] teaches us how fortunate we are and not to take anything for granted,” said Dr. Michele Martin, assistant professor of teacher education. “It makes us open our eyes to what others are going through, especially in understanding why some students don’t bring their own snacks or don’t participate in some activities.”
Prospective teacher education graduates remarked that they wanted to be prepared with lists of social services available to help in certain circumstances, and planned to have snacks, school supplies, and other resources available when they are put in charge of their own classrooms.
The Department of Teacher Education and the Presidential Fellows Program plan to offer the simulation again in the future.
Huntingdon College is a coeducational residential liberal arts college of the United Methodist Church offering more than thirty undergraduate programs of study and 21 NCAA-Division III athletic teams. The Department of Teacher Education offers a major in elementary education with collaborative special education as well as teacher education for students interested in teaching at the secondary level in English/language arts, history, history with general social studies, biology, mathematics, and P–12 music education or physical education. Huntingdon recently added a Master of Athletic Training program, the College’s first graduate program since its founding in 1854.