Student teacher honors Lakeview kindergarten class during UNL graduation ceremony

Kindergarten students at Lakeview Elementary School may not have walked a mile in Crandall Blake’s shoes this month, but they were able to do the next-best thing.
Blake wore shoes that showcased the names of every member of Cameron Mettenbrink’s kindergarten class at her University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduation ceremony. She wanted to make sure her young friends could symbolically walk across the stage with her.
Blake formed close connections with Mettenbrink’s class throughout her time as a student teacher at Lincoln Public Schools. She said prior to the Dec. 16 ceremony that it would be an honor to include them in her special day.
“Knowing my students are ‘with me’ as I graduate is such a heartwarming feeling,” Blake said. “These kids have truly molded and created a special place in my heart, and I am tearing up even thinking about all the things they will succeed in in the future and all the adventures they will have in their lives. This group of students has taught me more than I could ever teach them.”
Holden, Lillian and Bella smiled as they gathered around a table and wrote their names on Blake’s high-top sneakers with colorful markers. The shoes included signatures of all 23 kindergarteners. Holden said he enjoyed working on the one-of-a-kind graduation present.
“It was really fun,” Holden said. “Hopefully she’s happy with the shoes.”
A Kansas native, Blake grew up in both Wichita and Overland Park and graduated from Blue Valley Southwest High School. She was active in many journalism projects in high school and was planning to pursue a broadcasting career at UNL. One of her high school highlights was qualifying for a national broadcasting contest in Seattle.
Even though television was her top priority when she signed up for classes, Blake was familiar with the education field. One of her cousins is a teacher in Kansas and her aunt has worked as a school secretary for many years.
Her future path changed soon after she arrived in Lincoln. Blake learned about the Community Learning Centers (CLC) program at Lakeview and thought it would be fun to help children there. The new plans for her life fell into place when she saw their smiles.
“I had gone to UNL as a broadcasting major but I knew it wasn’t right,” Blake said. “I took the job at the Lakeview CLC to try it out. I knew I liked working with kids and supporting them, so I thought it could be an easy test run to see if teaching was something I was interested in.
“After a few weeks, I remember standing on the playground with my CLC students and it clicked in my head that teaching was what I wanted to do. I haven’t looked back or regretted my decision since. Teaching is my passion and working with students and helping them grow to their fullest potential is what I strive to accomplish every day!”
Her time working with LPS students this fall proved to be everything she had hoped for. Mettenbrink, who served as Blake’s cooperating teacher, said he was impressed with the way she supervised and encouraged everyone.
“Miss Blake is the type of teacher kids will remember with fond memories when they look back on their educational journey,” Mettenbrink said. “Miss Blake is the first student teacher I have had the honor of working with and I couldn’t have asked for more. She possesses all the qualities of a teacher that you simply can’t teach to someone. She is passionate, isn’t afraid to work hard, loves kids and understands that each one is unique.
“Miss Blake has the type of personality that would make her great at whatever she chose to do. I’m glad she chose to teach.”
Brink said she felt the same way about Mettenbrink.
“He is truly one of the best teachers I have ever met,” Brink said. “He is so thoughtful in everything he does for his students, and he is always thinking three steps ahead on what he can do to best support his students. He is a teacher I strive to be like!”
Blake knew she would finish her student-teaching journey on Dec. 1, and she told the class in late November she would receive her diploma on Dec. 16. When they heard she would be in a graduation ceremony, they wanted to come support her because they liked and respected her.
Their faces fell when they learned they would not be unable to attend the ceremony. Blake then came up with a happy compromise. They could sign her shoes so they could be with her during every step of her graduation walk.
Blake ensured those LPS-based bonds remained strong when she returned to Lakeview Dec. 13. Every student created a personalized award certificate for her, and several of them wanted to sign the sneakers a second time. Students like Cianna said they were glad to see Blake in class again.
“She helps me learn,” Cianna said.
Blake was grateful to know the handwritten shoes would always be a reminder of their presence in her life.
“I enjoyed getting to work with a multitude of different learners from different backgrounds while student teaching at Lakeview,” Blake said. “Lakeview serves a diverse community and getting to work with learners from all backgrounds was truly a gift.”

Blake will return to Lincoln Public Schools in January as a first-grade teacher at McPhee Elementary School. 
Do you have a story idea? Share it with the LPS Communications Team by filling out this form!

Published: December 18, 2023, Updated: December 18, 2023

Crandall Blake hugs a kindergarten student at Lakeview Elementary School. Blake was a student teacher in the class this fall. All of her students signed her shoes so they could walk with her during her University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduation ceremony on Dec. 16.