Student Teacher Brings Ellis Island to Local High School

Lisa RybakLisa Rybak is a hands-on kind of teacher.

Rybak, a resident of Orland Park, Illinois, and a student in the Adult Studies Education program, recently engaged Andrew High School history students in an experiential learning project she planned as part of her student teaching.

Recently, rather than entering their normal classroom, students at the Tinley Park, Illinois, high school took part in Rybak’s Ellis Island simulation, a project Rybak knew would bring their unit on immigration to life. Students were assigned a character, based on a ship’s manifest, and were required to create their own passports.

Students took their roles seriously, some dressing for their “parts” and attempting to speak with accents as they visited the various stations where they would receive identification tags, undergo questioning, and be examined by a health inspector. Some students were “detained” and some “deported,” but others reached the land of opportunity, which in this new world was a bowl of candy.

Surprising to Rybak, the project drew the attention of local reporters who covered the simulation for The Tinley Junction and SouthtownStar.

Rybak’s fellow student teacher Elizabeth Gavin, also a student in Trinity’s Adult Studies program, played the part of an inspector along with other teachers. Gavin and Rybak, who are enrolled in different cohorts in Trinity’s program, both came from the business world. They have enjoyed sharing the common educational path they are on, and often meet to discuss everything from their lesson plans to their classroom experiences.

Rybak, who will be earning her teacher certification from Trinity in December, earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from DePaul University. As part of Trinity’s Adult Studies program, students learn in small groups, or cohorts. Classes meet once per week—a feature that immediately attracted Rybak to the program—and students within cohorts often form supportive friendships.

“My cohort is great, and I wish it could keep meeting even after we finish,” said Rybak. “We’re very close. For a lot of us, this is our dream for a new opportunity.”

Rybak said the program’s professors teach in a hands-on way in their classes, something Rybak appreciates. “Trinity encourages professors to move beyond the lecture and teach through experiential learning,” she said. “That is the best experience I can take away from my time at Trinity.

Teaching is a new opportunity for Rybak, whose love of learning and of history was rekindled suddenly during social studies homework sessions with her daughter Ellie, 10, who is very proud to see her mother furthering her education and inspiring young people.

“My heart is in teaching,” said Rybak. “High school is an important molding stage, and I want to guide students in developing good study habits and becoming good citizens. I want to inspire them.”

Rybak is also a photographer with an associate of applied science degree in digital photography from the Harrington College of Design in Chicago. Her photos have been published in the Chicago Sun-Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Renovation Style magazine.