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What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

I’m in the classroom every day! I work to find ways to engage students in the content while also trying to help them develop critical thinking skills. I work in a Title I school, so many of my students (over 90%) live in poverty. With so many students that don’t have basic needs consistently met, or perhaps they live in a situation of uncertainty in terms of if they will eat or have electricity on any given night, the challenges of engaging students in learning are different than in many other schools. In addition to being in the classroom, I am also the faculty sponsor for the Environmental Club. I work with students daily with our recycling program, our campus beautification and our community garden. We collect paper recycling once a week, clean up litter from our outdoor classroom areas and run and maintain our garden. 

How did your experience at CMU prepare you for your career? 

I think the faculty and professors at CMU are amazing. I left with a very high-quality science education, but I also learned how to be a mentor and a role model from my experience. Dr. McQuade continues to act as a mentor to me, taking an interest in my career choices and offering me advice when I've asked.  The other professors from the science department that I've interacted with have all gone above and beyond in their role as a teacher. The professors at CMU challenged me to think deeply about the information that was being taught so that I wasn't just memorizing facts, I was engaging in the scientific process. I use those ideas and techniques every day in my classroom. 

What was your transition like from being a student to your current career position?

I think that going straight from a student to a teacher has its own unique challenges. You don’t really have to get used to a new setting, you’re still in a classroom and still a part of the educational system. Getting settled into the new role is a little different. Suddenly, YOU’RE the expert, which can feel a little overwhelming. Having a solid scientific knowledge base and such varied examples of great teaching are what have helped me be successful. It was also challenging for me since I decided to become a teacher after I left CMU, so I didn't get any formal training before stepping into the classroom. But I survived, and I am honestly happy every day that I decided to make teaching my career.

What do you think set you apart from the other applicants for your current position? 

I think my content knowledge was one of my greatest assets. I also had experience working with students in a variety of subjects because I worked at the Tutorial Learning Center (shout out to the TLC!). I was able to give concrete examples of how I addressed students with different needs and learning styles, and how that could translate into working with high school students.

What advice would you give to incoming college students?

There are a few ways to get the most out of your experience. First, get involved! Join a club or get a job on campus. It will help you meet people who will become part of your support system. Second, find out when the tutoring center is open, and go AS SOON AS you realize you need a little extra help. Waiting until you get a low score on the first test, or worse, right before the final, is less effective. College is different than high school, you must seek out resources to help you succeed. So figure out what you need to be successful and take advantage of the help. CMU has systems set up to help students with almost any issue, you just have to be proactive and ask. Finally, make connections with the faculty and staff. I had a significantly richer experience because I worked closely with my faculty advisor. He even helped me secure summer internships around the country.

Published 8/8/2018