Why did you choose the UVA School of Education & Human Development for your program of study?
Having gotten my bachelor’s from UVA I was fully aware of the caliber of instruction and of the prestige that accompanies said degree. My bachelor’s is not in education nor is it a traditional bachelor’s degree but a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in Business. After working in several administrative positions over the course of ten years, I found that I was only going to work to earn a paycheck and not because I enjoyed what I was doing. After doing a self-evaluation of what truly made me happy, I realized that I had been running from the one thing that was constant in my life, being surrounded by children and helping them learn. Looking back on my life I know now that my teaching journey began when I was an infant. Shortly after my birth my mother became a single parent and, in that moment, chose to open a pre-school so she could work and take care of me. That pre-school was named JKL Pre-school, JKL are my initials, making the school my namesake.
Once I realized that teaching or helping others learn was my passion, I began researching the best schools to attend the earn my teaching degree. While UVA was at thee top of the list it was also the most expensive; but, again, I had to consider the quality of instruction I would receive. After talking it over with my immediate family and seeking the advice of a respected teacher friend I applied to the School of Education and Human Development, formerly Curry, for an endorsement in Elementary Education. It wasn’t until orientation that I actually realized that I had applied to be endorsed in Elementary and Special Education. I considered dropping the Special Education portion of the endorsement because it would allow me to graduate earlier, but after more consideration, I realized that not only did I enjoy teaching but I especially enjoyed teaching or rather helping children with special needs learn because I truly believe they are capable of great things when given the right tools.
What is the most significant thing that has shaped your time while you’ve been here?
One of the things that has most significantly shaped my time at UVA is the friendships I’ve made, both professionally and personally. As a mother of two young girls, there were times when I had to bring my children to class with me. At first, I was apprehensive because I didn’t want them to be perceived as a distraction. But I was reassured by my professors, that as a school whose sole purpose is teaching us how to teach and inspire children, they were always welcomed if childcare were ever an issue. Knowing that my children were welcomed allowed me to relax and focus on the amazing instruction that was being delivered. Seeing the passion that my instructors brought to each class inspired me to want to be as knowledgeable as they were so that I could one day present the info my students would need to be successful with the same exuberance.
Throughout my two years at UVA, my professors and mentor teacher saw in me a potential that I have not always been able to. They empowered me with knowledge that complements my raw passion for helping others learn. On a personal level, I’ve made friends with some of the most inspiring individuals I’ve met in a long time. My cohort has supported and challenged me to be the best teacher and human I can be. These friendships are invaluable to me and the person I’ve become.
What is one thing you learned during your studies that surprised you most?
One of the things I learned during my time at the School of Education and Human Development that surprised me most is how racially charged education was and still is. I knew that education was racially charged, but I didn’t know the extend to which it reached and still existed until I started studying the history and evolution of the American Education system. Although most of those racially charged issues were not new to me, such as inner-city schools being underfunded or an underrepresentation of African American teachers in schools, I was not fully aware of the history behind these disparities. I applaud the efforts that UVA is making to help change the future of teaching. From teaching Culturally Responsive Teaching, to helping future teachers understand and address their biases, they are working hard to reshape the minds of future teachers like myself. This forward-thinking approach to teacher education is needed if we hope to make any lasting changes in the “what” and “how” children are taught.
How are you feeling about being a member of the Class of 2021, completing your program in the middle of a pandemic?
I feel honored and humbled to be a member of the graduating class of 2021. I’m thankful for the time I had in the classroom with students and teachers pre-pandemic and equally as grateful for the time I’ve had with students and teachers post-pandemic. I’ve been challenged to use brain muscles I didn’t even know I had, tap into a creative side that has been dormant since elementary school and exercise a level of patience and grace towards myself that at times I wasn’t sure I could. While I, like everyone else, long for some form of normalcy, I can’t say that I’m eager to return to 20+ student class sizes. I’ve enjoyed the intimacy of getting to know each and every one of my students because of mandated reduction in class sizes. I’ve also enjoyed getting to know future colleagues and administration during the pandemic because it’s shown how flexible we all can be and that we have the best interest of our students at the heart of everything we do.
What will you be doing next?
Next in my teaching journey is taking on the role of classroom teacher at one of Albemarle County’s schools. Like most first-year teachers, I’m excited and nervous to have a classroom to call my own and to be solely responsible for the nurturing and educating of 15-20 little people. Beyond being a classroom teacher, I hope to return to school in 5-10 years to get my Ph.D. in administration so that I can help make some of the changes I think need to be made so that education is free, accessible and equitable for all children.