Secondary Education and Environmental Studies Major
Most know Derek LaRosa as a wide receiver for the Prairie Fire football team.
That is where the Knox College senior studies the environment of the grid iron
and dodges Vikings, Buccaneers, Red Hawks or Green Knights.
He has played in 28 games, and caught 42 passes for 447 yards. He's caught four touchdown passes, and for the past two seasons, LaRosa has been the top pass catcher. He led the team in receptions in his junior season and his current senior season. Off the field, he has a certain economy of motion and speech and doesn't exhibit a bit of nervous energy - a seemingly perfect game plan. This preparation is not for the triple-option offense, but for a different kind of game day.
As a secondary education and environmental studies double major, LaRosa has spent the last three years getting ready for student teaching at Galesburg High School during the winter term.
"I feel prepared for the amount of work it entails," he says. "The educational studies faculty at Knox is wonderful, and I have been mentally prepared since my summer work at the Navajo nation."
LaRosa was one of six Knox students, accompanied by Diana Beck, professor and co-chair of educational studies, and Stephen Schroth, assistant professor of educational studies, who traveled to the Navajo nation in America's southwest, as participants in Knox's Navajo Professional Teaching Development Program. The program provides students with the opportunity to practice culturally appropriate teaching at the Navajo Lutheran Mission School.
"We did some planning, teaching and teacher development for the Navajo teachers. It was a nice precursor, a lot of fun and real productive. I realize it is different from the GHS experience to come."
During his student teaching term, LaRosa will teach environmental studies, biology and a life science class.
"Everyone has a different idea about environmental studies. It is cutting edge. There are a lot of important things going on right now, and I think some changes are necessary in the near future in order to promote sustainable living," he says.
LaRosa is also conducting a senior research project on the feasibility of implementing the environmental studies curriculum in the public elementary schools. "My interest is getting kids informed at a younger age about conservation, preservation and sustainability and some of those terms that they wouldn't hear about unless they took an environmental studies elective in high school. If they are introduced to the concept at a younger age, then the practice becomes habit," he says.
LaRosa says teaching at the high school level will give him the chance to inspire students to go to school and pursue their own interests.
He is not worried about classroom management and can always call an audible if his lesson plan runs short. "I'm not worried about that. A lot of teaching is planning, so I think I am going to be well prepared."