Reigna Perdue

Alverno at Work: Reigna Perdue

“The zookeepers are on vacation today. We need your help!” Reigna Perdue issues a plea to the group gathered in front of her. Her volunteers stand ready and willing to help, donning beige safari jackets before heading out into the bright summer sun.

Once outside, Perdue’s team feeds some hungry goats and makes a comfy bed of straw for Gypsy the horse. Then they clean the cage of three fluffy baby chicks. In between jobs, there’s a snack waiting for them (a very important condition of their work).

It’s an action-packed morning for the group of 13 four- and five-year-olds attending a Zoo Class at the Milwaukee County Zoo. Perdue, a second-year intern with the Zoological Society of Milwaukee, is the lead teacher. Today’s topic is the job of a zookeeper, so the kids learn —and practice — a zookeeper’s job of helping, cleaning and feeding animals. It’s the perfect gig for the aspiring elementary school teacher.

“My internship has prepared me in so many ways for my future career,” she says. “I was able to practice leading and mentoring. I also learned behavior-management strategies, the areas of growth that I can learn from and fix, and how to work with co-workers effectively and successfully.”

From cheerfully instructing her students to sit “criss-cross applesauce” to donning a platypus puppet so one girl can give him a checkup, Perdue, an Elementary Education major, is a natural. She kneels to be eye-to-eye with a student before speaking to her. When one student forgets to raise his hand, she issues a gentle reminder. When another contributes an off-topic thought to the discussion, she gets the conversation back on track.

“Four- and five-year-olds are curious and excited to learn,” she says. “You have to teach them how to raise their hands and wait to share — that’s not the norm for them. I want kids to love school and be ready to learn. Let’s explore your curiosity together while learning about school.”

Perdue’s internship was one of many opportunities for her to get firsthand experience in her chosen field. She is looking forward to obtaining field experience this fall, which means she’ll be able to start working with groups of students, design lesson plans and even teach a class, all before beginning her student-teaching assignment as an upper-level student.

“I’m finally getting into the classrooms and I couldn’t be more grateful,” she says. “I’m ready to apply my skills and what I learned.”

In fact, the closer Perdue gets to graduation, the more she wants to learn.

“Teachers are constantly learning just as they’re constantly teaching,” she observes. “So I want to learn more things about: how does it feel to be a day-to-day teacher? How to manage all of your kids on a personal level and educational level? How to meet all kids’ expectations? I’m ready to take it all in because I know at the end, I will make a huge positive impact on my students, their families and my community. That’s what I strive and work so hard for.”