By: Megan Wilson
Big 12 Campus Correspondent
For the last two years, senior Loren Groves has shined in the ring for Kansas State. Groves is a three-time All-American and a two-time Big 12 Champion in the weight throw. This past fall however, she had the chance to shine on a different stage - as a teacher in the classroom.
Groves, an elementary education major from Scott City, Mo., spent the fall semester student teaching in a kindergarten classroom at Theodore Roosevelt Elementary in Manhattan, Kan.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Groves said. “I taught kindergarten, and I’ve always wanted to do the younger grades (since becoming an elementary education major).”
Balancing her commitments in the both classroom and towards athletics was sometimes difficult.
“It was very hard to balance my student academic life with my student-athlete life,” she said. “I learned very good time management. I started my mornings at 5:30, and then I went and taught for seven hours, and then I had two hours of practice after that. It was exhausting, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I loved my kids, and they kept me on my toes all the time.”
Thanks to help from her cooperating teacher Jane Scruggs, Loren was able to find that balance.
“Loren was pulled between her two careers ó (being) a student-athlete and a student teacher, but she did well balancing the two,” Scruggs said. “I think she did well explaining to her coach the importance of her semester of student teaching and the time that would be involved, and he seemed to support her in this.”
Groves agreed, crediting Coach Steve Fritz with helping her continue to train while she was student teaching.
“Coach Fritz stayed late to help me because he knew I wouldn’t be able to get the exact workouts that I needed at that time, but that it was all I could do,” Groves said. “I threw twice a week and worked out on my own afterwards, and he was there for me to help me go through the technique so that I could stay in contact with everything.”
In the classroom, Scruggs said Groves was immediately able to connect to her students.
“She is very friendly and warm and eager to learn,” Scruggs said. “Loren connected quickly with her kindergartners, building a rapport with the children and their families. In the classroom, Loren was self-directed, always anticipating what needed to be done next and jumping in to get it done.”
It was the connection she made with her students that helped her manage the classroom, Scruggs said. She also compared Groves’ classroom management to what good coaches are able to do with their teams.
“Loren had high expectations for her students, both academically and behaviorally,” Scruggs said. “You might think that Loren’s strong, athletic physical appearance was the driving force behind getting her students to behave, but that was not it at all.
"It was the close relationship she had with her students. They did not want to disappoint her. They wanted to make her proud. It was kind of like a good coach with her team.”
Groves' relationship with the students was her favorite part of student teaching.
“It was just an amazing experience for me,” she said. “I love singing, and I got to sing color songs with them daily, and weather songs. They pick up on everything that you say, and if you can put it to music, they’ll remember it.”
Groves said she was able to integrate some of her attributes as a track star at K-State into the classroom.
“I even worked in some track things with them," she said. "We did exercises every day and they loved it. We would do lunges in the classroom and jumping jacks. It was just an all around great experience,” she exclaimed.
“To watch them grow was great. In the beginning they knew no words and now they can read. I went to visit them and they all ran up to me and showed me all the new words they could read and pointed them out to me, so it was great to see how much progress five and six-year-olds can make in a three-month span.”
Although she always intended to be a teacher, Groves initially started in secondary education wanting to follow in the footsteps of her favorite teacher.
“My inspiration to become a teacher was my seventh grade biology teacher,” she said. “He was my favorite, and he made learning so fun. I started in secondary, but then I did Read and Achieve (a K-State athletics community service program) and some things like that with the Student Athlete Advisory Council and I was with the elementary kids, and I just fell in love with them.
"I switched my major to still have a concentration in science but to teach elementary, and it just clicked. I’m still a teacher, and I’m still doing what I love.”
As the indoor track season comes around, Groves has her sights set on another Big 12 crown and the possibility of winning a national title in the weight throw. Scruggs said the qualities that have helped Groves to have such success in track are the same qualities that will make her a great teacher.
“She is dedicated, focused, passionate and inspiring,” she said. “Loren encouraged her students to do their best and to be their best. She celebrated with them when they were successful and pushed and encouraged them when they struggled.”
Groves has come a long way since she first started throwing as a freshman. She admitted to initially being a little overwhelmed, but soon learned to adjust to the mental aspect of throwing.
“It took me about a year and a half to learn that it was a progression," Groves said. "I finally learned to take it day by day. If you don’t have a good practice, don’t get mad, don’t get frustrated, just come back the next day and try to do better.
“The same thing goes for a meet. I had really terrible meet last year, and it really broke me, but I came back the next meet and threw a personal best. Don’t dwell on the past and take it day by day.”
Taking things one day at a time is a lesson Groves will pass on to her future students and to her K-State teammates. Being a teacher doesn’t stop at the classroom door for Groves.
“I’m excited to see how much I can progress and how much my teammates can progress,” she said. “Chelsea Bonds is a freshman this year, and I’ve kind of taken her under my wing because I think she’s going to be really, really good in a couple of years. I’m excited to see how she’s going to do this year as well.”
With her dedication and hard work, one thing is clear. In the classroom or in the throwing ring, Loren Groves is a true champion.