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Brinkmeier ready for a classroom all her own

Barry McNamara
05/06/2019
MONMOUTH, Ill. – Growing up, one of Keeley Brinkmeier’s joys was to gather some of her mother’s teaching supplies and “play school.”

In a few short months following her Monmouth College graduation, the educational studies major hopes to have her own classroom full of students, potentially at United North Elementary School in nearby Alexis, where she has been an “all day, every day” second-grade student teacher for the past semester.

In that role, Brinkmeier has already experienced the thrill of effectively teaching students.

“I remember the first week I’d taken over the spelling lessons,” she said. “One of the words was ‘gloom,’ which can be kind of a tricky word for second-graders. I told them ‘gloom’ is a downer word, and I illustrated that by putting frowny faces in each of the o’s. When we got the spelling test back at the end of the week, almost all of them put frowny faces in the o’s. And I thought, ‘I did that!’”

Brinkmeier was also on the learning end throughout her student teacher experience.

“I learned a lot about really getting students to think deeper and more creatively,” she said. “They really taught us ways to model that and to use that approach in our classroom.”

Quizzed on the qualities that will make her an effective teacher, Brinkmeier replied, “I am very organized. I love staying on top of things, which I think is especially important at this particular grade level. You never know what’s going to happen from day to day.”

Destined to teach

The daughter of a second-grade teacher, Brinkmeier always knew her dream job was to teach.

“Ever since I was little, I said I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “I’ve always looked up to my mom. And then growing up, I did a lot of work with children, and that just solidified that I wanted to be a teacher.”

But Brinkmeier wasn’t sure about her ideal grade to teach until she worked with students at United.

“I’ve been in numerous grade settings, but I just fell in love with second grade,” she said. “After I’d been in that classroom a few days, I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, I really, really like it.’ The children are at an age when they can be independent, but they still like to talk to teachers.”

Teaching at United was an important fit in another aspect, as well.

“I love the small-school setting,” said Brinkmeier, who came to Monmouth from the northwestern Illinois community of Mount Carroll, which has a population of less than 2,000. “I love the feeling of knowing almost everyone in your school. Some of my classmates say they came from graduating classes of 800 students or more. I couldn’t imagine that.”

Woman of the Year

The school where Brinkmeier teaches is getting a proven leader and a talented and accomplished student. In her first year at Monmouth, she was named Freshman Woman of the Year. She bookended that by receiving the Senior Woman of the Year honor at the College’s Honors Convocation last month.

“I was so honored to receive the award,” she said of her recent honor. “Monmouth has provided me with so many opportunities to get involved, meet new people and reach new goals. I wouldn’t have received this award if it wasn’t for the help and support of Monmouth’s faculty and staff and my current cooperating teacher. They have always encouraged me to give back to my community and get involved.”

Brinkmeier’s leadership roles at Monmouth have included the vice presidency of the local chapters of Blue Key and the Illinois Education Association, as well as executive roles within her women’s fraternity, Kappa Kappa Gamma. The Dean’s List student is also a member of the Order of Omega, the Greek life honor society, and Kappa Delta Pi, the educational honors society. Brinkmeier has also volunteered for numerous organizations, including Rainbow Riders, Jamieson Community Center, the Warren County Public Library and Monmouth-Roseville District No. 238.

“Keeley has a remarkable kindness and is one of the least judgmental people I’ve known,” wrote one of her nominators for the Senior Woman of the Year award. “She will make a positive impact on the young students she wants to teach.”

“She is unfailingly kind and upbeat in class and is a strong leader among her peers,” wrote another.

Monmouth educational studies faculty members agree.

“Keeley is one of the most organized people I know,” said Sherry Bair. “She is detail-oriented, making sure that she meets and exceeds any standard for work that she is provided. Her organization and focus make her a fabulous student who strives hard to exceed expectations.”

Bair said Brinkmeier does more than simply check the boxes of required standards.

“Her personality and her smile engages everyone she meets,” she said. “Her drive for excellence and her engaging personality, along with her true passion for teaching children, will make her a great teacher. A school cannot ask for more than a dedicated, caring, competent teacher who gets along with everyone.”

“Keeley’s ethic of work and care are among her greatest assets,” said educational studies professor Tammy La Prad. “Keeley seeks opportunities to improve her teaching and remain curious as she learns from her students. She is someone who sees what needs to be done, does it, and does so with a genuine spirit of wanting to be of use.”