By Betsy Simon
Oct 4, 2019
Indiana State University senior Emily Ratliff has had the opportunity to test her hand at being both a teacher and a princess this year.
And though she had a blast serving as a 2019 500 Festival Princess, Ratliff is feeling more at home this fall at Rosedale Elementary, where the elementary education major with a minor in special education is serving as a student teacher.
“I was a peer tutor in high school as a part of Best Buddies and I was paired with a student who was non-verbal. She was younger than me, but she taught me so much and I loved working with her. Ever since then, I have known that I wanted (special education) to be my minor,” said Ratliff, of Fishers, Ind. “I’ve always had jobs that involved kids. I started babysitting when I was 13 and I coach a swim team during the summer with kids ranging from 3 years old up to 15, I’ve always loved being around kids. I also watched my grandma, who was a fourth grade teacher, and she made me passionate about pursuing a career in education.”
Ratliff is student teaching in a second grade classroom at Rosedale Elementary School for the school year as part of an immersion program through the Bayh College of Education.
“I’ll follow this class through until I graduate and get to teach their class for six weeks second semester,” she said. “Because of the program I’m in through Indiana State, I was at Rosedale before school started to help the teacher prep for the year. I got to see the first day and the first week as a teacher and next semester I’ll get to control it.”
Ratliff hopes to teach third grade after graduation in May.
“In high school, I helped in a third grade classroom and I fell in love with the grade,” she said. “They’re at a point where they love coming to school and learning but you can have really in-depth conversations with them. It’s such a cool age.”
Ratliff signed up to be in the immersion program, which is part of the Bayh College’s TOTAL Program. At the beginning of August, she got to meet the school principal and help her teacher prepare her classroom, attend Parent-Teacher Night and has sat in on parent-teacher meetings and IEP meetings.
“I get to do whatever my teacher does, she shows me how everything is done and next semester she relinquishes control and lets me teach,” Ratliff said. “It’s cool that I get to be with this class for a year because most student teachers are switching to a different school at the end of the semester. The best part of getting to be in the school on the first day was watching my teacher plan and carry out that day. I knew it would be crazy going in, but my teacher always had a backup plan and really showed me how to learn about every child’s individual needs from the very beginning.”
Ratliff came to Indiana State on a swimming scholarship and as a BEST Scholar.
“I’ve been a swimmer for about 15 years of my life. After two years, though, I decided to give up swimming and focus all in on teaching,” she said.
Through the BEST Program, Ratliff had the opportunity to start her freshman year volunteering at Sara Scott Middle School’s Success Center every morning.
“I think that the education program here provides everyone with everything you need to be one step ahead of your peers through things like volunteer opportunities, student organizations and practicums that all help provide you with the tools you need when you start going into the schools sophomore year. I don’t know of any other schools that do that,” she said.
The BEST Scholar program also allowed her access to valuable mentors and mentees.
“I had a student mentor, who has now graduated, who would meet with me twice a week and he would help me with homework, show me how to register for classes and just hang out sometimes,” she said. “Because he was also an education major but was a year older than me, he knew what I was going through as a student in the same program and was a valuable asset to my early college experience.”
Last spring, Ratliff also had the opportunity to serve as a 500 Festival Princess, thanks to a little prodding from a friend who participated the year before.
Ratliff survived the first interview and cut that took the competition from 800 women to 60, eventually making it through to the final selection to be named a 2019 500 Festival Princess.
“It’s all about community service. We have to plan four community service events in our hometowns and in our ‘college hometowns’,” she said. “Because I’m super involved with kids, I went to Dixie Bee Elementary and two elementary schools in my hometown and did PowerPoints and let the kids design racecars. It was fun to connect the Indy 500 to both of my hometowns.”
Ratliff also conducted the “Southeastern Swim Club Feeds 500” food drive with the swim club she used to swim with back home.
“I asked all of the kids in the swim club to bring a non-perishable food item and all of the got to take pictures in the and pace car that I was able to take around with me for a month,” she said. “All of the kids were so excited about it.”
As a 500 Festival Princess, Ratliff’s life was jam packed with community service from February and May, including activities at Riley Children’s Hospital, with different food pantries and soup kitchens and others organizations in the Indianapolis area.
Come race day, Ratliff and the other Princesses were rewarded with front row seats to the action on the track.
“I had watched the race on TV with my grandparents, but I had never been to the Indy 500 before this year and it was insane being on the track with all of the racecar drivers and being able to help in any way we could. We even got to be in the Winner’s Circle with the guy who won,” she said. “The experience allowed me to experience the Indy 500 in a new way, while also being able to give back to my hometown and to Terre Haute where I’ve lived for four years, and that made it an even greater part of this opportunity.”