Archive for the 'Alumni Voices' Category

Where Are Our Alumni? Catching Up With Thess Dobbs

In this #ThrowbackThursday post, we catch up with one of our alumni who participated in an undergraduate version of our Masters in STEM Teaching program, Thess Dobbs. Currently teaching at Milwaukee School of Languages, Thess was recently awarded the Edyth Sliffe Award for Distinguished Teaching in Middle School and High School. Read on to hear more about what she’s been doing since graduating!

thessI teach high school math at Milwaukee School of Languages (MSL). At MSL I also lead the math club, which I started in 2014. In this club, we work on more challenging math that goes above and beyond the standard curriculum. Our students have the opportunity to wrestle with challenging competition-level problems and receive guidance to help them build their skills. Through fundraising we make all activities free or low-cost for our students, and we are proud to make these opportunities, often reserved for privileged students at elite schools, accessible to our students. The racial disparities in the STEM fields begin with the inequities in our school systems, and the process to end those disparities must also start with our schools.

Originally, I am from Milwaukee and grew up with a lot of brothers and sisters. My dad is a professor, and both my parents placed a strong emphasis on learning. Being a big sister made me a natural teacher. The Noyce Program gave me more hands-on experience than the typical pre-service teacher has. It wasn’t until student teaching that I really had to learn how to manage a classroom, but the relationships built during my field placements helped me maintain my confidence during the hard times later on. Thanks to the amount of time spent in field placements, I also got a good sense of the school culture of a few different schools.

Even though we aren’t in touch as much as we used to be, I feel the bond still exists between the Noyce Scholars in my cohort. All the formative experiences we shared as undergraduates are not easily forgotten. One person who inspires me is my grandma, Leona Sherrod, who passed away three years ago. She taught in public school for eighteen years, and taught for eighteen more years in prisons’ adult education programs. Though she is gone now, I’m glad she got to see me become a teacher too.

Interested in learning more about how you can pursue your Masters Degree and Wisconsin Teaching Licensure in just fourteen months? Our Noyce Scholars graduate program is accepting applications through February of 2019!

Changing Climate: Counselors Getting Crafty!

By Sabrina Bartels

At the start of this school year, the Student Services department decided to help “beautify” our building. Here are some fun things we did to help our school climate!

  1. “Be the nice kid” quote. This was one of the most difficult things we did, but it was definitely worth it. We started by purchasing white paint and painting over a small section of the brick wall. We then projected a picture of the quote on the wall and traced the lettering, before finishing off the words with a couple coats of paint. It was finicky and stressful, but we’ve gotten tons of compliments on it. If you’re thinking of adding this quote to your school, we recommend picking up a variety of brushes to accommodate the different fonts. Also, this is a team activity – all the painting can get very tedious for just one person! Be the nice kid
  2. Drake bulletin board. Our students love this one (and also use it as an excuse to sing the song “Hey Keke.”) We saw a bulletin board on Facebook that used the quote, so we adjusted it a little to fit our school and added our own picture of Drake. We hope that it encourages our students to start thinking about their post-secondary education paths. It’s also a fun way to incorporate a little pop culture into school! Bulletin Board
  3. And speaking of education paths … we added a bulletin board outside of Student Services so we could post our own educational paths. Our students love seeing where all of us went to school! We’ve also used our new bulletin board to post inspirational quotes for our students to read. Educational PathwaysEducational PathStudent Services board
  4. Inside Out bulletin board. We also created a bulletin board that offers students a gentle reminder about what we do in Student Services. So often, we have students who don’t know what our roles are, or what they can talk to us about. Inside Out
  5. Pennants. In September, we sent out emails to (almost) all of the colleges and universities in Wisconsin, asking for pennants and any “swag” the colleges had to promote their school. The responses we got were overwhelming! Around 15 schools (Marquette included!) not only sent us pennants, but were super generous in sending us t-shirts, temporary tattoos, stickers/decals, water bottles, and more! Thanks to their kindness, we are able to start discussing post-secondary education right now with our students. We wanted to hang them over the bulletin board outside our office, but are trying to find something better than duct tape to hold them up.

Catching up with Courtney Farley

After completing student teaching last January, Courtney Farley finished out the rest of the academic year as a long-term substitute. However, with the new school year beginning, so is her new adventure! Courtney will be spending the next year teaching English in Spain. Read on to hear all about it.

farleyBy Courtney Farley

I grew up in Pewaukee, Wisconsin. I attended Queen of Apostles grade school, Catholic Memorial High School, and then found myself at Marquette. I have one sister, who graduated from Madison last year in biology and is now doing an accelerated nursing program at Madison. My mom works for Sherwin Williams in sales and my dad is a retired lawyer and now loves spending his days golfing. Finally, we have our dog, Guinness, who is a mini golden doodle and easily the family favorite.

I have been attending Marquette Basketball games ever since I could walk. My dad went to Marquette and so did a lot of my cousins, aunts, and uncles. I grew up surrounded by people who loved Marquette and I knew that there was no other college that I wanted to go to. I came into Marquette knowing I wanted to major in Spanish, but not knowing what I wanted to do with it. I have worked at a summer day camp every summer since high school and knew I loved working with kids. I transferred into the College of Ed my sophomore year and absolutely loved all the classes I was taking. The class size and relationships I have formed with my peers and with the professors are incredible and that is what I love most about the College of Ed. You truly feel valued and your professors want you to succeed and help you as much as they can.

Someone who has been an inspiration to me and has made a huge impact is my high school Spanish teacher, Señora Diedrich. She was so passionate about teaching Spanish and made me realize how much I love it. She created a classroom environment where we felt like family and weren’t afraid to make mistakes. She cared about each of her students and helped us along the way. I hope to make as big an impact on my students as she did on me.

I had such an amazing experience during my student teaching at St. Anthony’s in Milwaukee. I was placed in a third-grade classroom with an amazing cooperating teacher. Student teaching can be very nerve-racking those first couple weeks, but everyone at the school made me feel welcome and part of the St. Anthony family. My cooperating teacher always explained everything and always asked for my input and reflections on lessons. Taking over teaching and getting to use all that I learned at Marquette was awesome. Not only did I get to see what really worked in my classroom, I got to grow and learn through those lessons that didn’t go as smoothly. I was lucky enough to get to stay at St. Anthony after student teaching and take over a 4th grade class as a long-term sub. I continued to learn so much about myself and realized how passionate I was about teaching.

I am going to be in Spain teaching English to kids from ages 3-18. I am going through a program that allows me to pull out small groups of children to help them learn English. I just took an online class and got my TEFL certification. I am excited to put everything I learned from the class into practice. I will be living in a small city outside of Barcelona called Vilafant.

While I am in Spain, I will be staying with three different host families. I chose this program partly because I wanted to stay with a host family. I am excited to become a part of their family and live a true, authentic Spanish lifestyle. I am so excited to get to learn more about the Spanish culture and what it means to make Spain my new “home.”

I am also excited to continue to grow as an educator and see what other school systems are like outside the United States and how I can bring back what I learned abroad and implement it in my own classroom.

I don’t know anyone else doing the program. I am going over there and am a little nervous about not knowing anyone, but more excited for the possibility to meet so many new people. This will force me out of my comfort zone and allow me to learn more about myself. I’m excited for the chance to teach abroad and to learn from the people in Spain gets me excited when I think about it. I will be in a whole new country, but I will still be doing what I love, which is teaching, working with children, and experiencing new cultures.

 

 

You Can’t Support LeBron’s New School and Be Against Charter Schools

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By Bill Waychunas

LeBron picked a team this summer that turned a lot of haters into fans and raised questions about what the fans are actually cheering for. I’m not talking about the Lakers or even basketball. I’m talking about schools.

There has been a lot of buzz around LeBron contributing millions to open the I Promise school in his hometown of Akron, Ohio.

And, as the kudos have rightfully rained down for LeBron’s commitment, many people have qualified their support of I Promise with the point that it is a traditional public school and NOT a charter school. It’s good for kids because he’s on our team.

So, as many raise banners to support LeBron’s school, they also raise the question, do they support the education of children, or do they support traditional public schools? What kind of fans are they anyways?

But education isn’t sports. In sports, you can have a favorite team. In sports, there are winners and losers. I would argue that societal tolerance of certain students “losing” in schools is the greatest historical and current injustice in public education. When it comes to education, we can’t have teams or sides. We should cheer for all children, families, and communities, not just if they happen to be on our team.

More frustrating is the irony of those touting I Promise as a traditional public school who don’t realize that it functions more like a charter school. Like that player on other team that you can’t stand, but secretly wish was on your team (think any player from Duke or these guys), LeBron’s school is exposing many of his supporter as hypocrites as they embrace a school which they previously would have criticized if it was a charter school.  

Let’s first acknowledge the hypocrisy around philanthropy. When charter schools accept donations, they are allowing privatizers to influence schools in an attempt to destroy public education. How is LeBron’s money different? If LeBron wasn’t a basketball player, but a Wall-Street type with ties to Akron, would his philanthropy receive the same welcome, even with the same good intentions? Not likely. We shouldn’t need to rely on celebrities to support public institutions like our schools anyways, but when money is given for the benefit of children, it shouldn’t matter what team (or type of school) is cashing the check.

The I Promise model, which is being touted as a long-awaited miracle for students, is based off the successes of urban charter schools, such as KIPP and Rocketship. These include, “longer school days, a non-traditional [longer] school year, and greater access to the school, its facilities, and its teachers” with the aim of “reducing the achievement gap between low-income students and their peers.” When charter schools do the same things, they are accused of exploiting teachers, having deficit views of children, and being overly focused on standardized testing.

I Promise fans should also acknowledge that, like charter schools, LeBron’s school is a school of choice. According to Time, “[t]he school selected area students from among those who trail their peers by a year or two in academic performance,” used a random lottery to decide who was admitted, and made phone calls to the families, asking “How would you like to be part of something different, the I Promise School.”

Let’s unpack that a bit.

Giving parents the option of “something different” implies that something isn’t working with their current public-school option, a foundational argument in favor of school choice. This also means that the kids selected would otherwise be going to neighborhood public schools. With funding being allocated on a per-pupil basis, for every student who goes to LeBron’s school, they take away a little more than $10,000 from their originally assigned school. That means less money for teachers, supplies, technology, and other supports.

The best teachers from Akron are also being extracted from the neighborhood schools. They even had to approve a separate union contract for these teachers, further implying that something isn’t working with the status-quo in the school district. If these students and teachers were leaving their traditional public schools for charter schools, it would be draining resources from neighborhood schools. But again, right player, right team. That means instead of extraction or injustice, it’s opportunity.

The selection kids by lottery may most clearly expose elements of hypocrisy for some fans who support the #WeChoose movement, which is associated with Journey for Justice Alliance and the Badass Teachers Association. They claims that charter schools are a scam and don’t offer a real choice to families, in part because the “choice” of quality schools is only available to some lottery winners, while leaving the rest behind. They advocate for well-funded schools with wrap-around services for ALL students, not just the lucky ones that won LeBron’s lottery. Clearly, the I Promise school is a step in the right direction, but it surely doesn’t serve all students or all schools. What about the students that are left behind? Clearly, one can’t claim that advancing the interest of some in LeBron’s school is progress while criticizing progress for some in charter schools is a problem.  

The bottom line is that the services and model at LeBron’s school would be good for kids, families, and communities no matter what type of school he opened. That’s what we should be focusing on, not the type of school.

If we’re going to be fans, let’s be fans for all kids, not just the ones on “our team.”

 

WEB and 6th grade orientation: Watching my 8th graders become leaders

Blue_lockers_at_IATCSBy Sabrina Bartels

At the end of last school year, we introduced a new concept to our 8th grade students called WEB. WEB, which stands for Where Everyone Belongs, promotes a welcoming environment in schools and encourages students to be leaders in their school community. At my school, we asked teachers to recommend students they thought would be good leaders and help us run the 6th grade student orientation. The results were, in my opinion, amazing.

There were two really great moments that stood out to me as an adult on the WEB team. The first moment was when I looked at the initial list of students being recommended as WEB leaders. There were several students I “expected” to see on the list: the kids who were always polite, responsible, and volunteered for multiple opportunities throughout the year. But there were also a good number of students who I considered “emerging leaders”: students who absolutely had leadership potential, but were not typically picked first for leadership opportunities. I think of some shyer students, or the boy who was a little outspoken during class, or the kind girl who really struggled in terms of attendance. Some of those students never believed in themselves to be leaders. Talking with some of them and giving them an application to be a WEB leader was such a rewarding moment. The smiles on their faces, and the pride they felt when they heard that teachers had suggested them, were amazing.

The second moment was seeing the leaders in action during the 6th grade orientation. I will be honest: I was a little nervous during our training days. Some of our students were still very shy and reserved. There were some students who were reluctant to practice some of the activities because they were embarrassed (we had a lot of activities that required moving, dancing, and doing things in silly voices.) We frequently discussed as a big group how all of us adults were embarrassed as well, but that we had the mindset that we were doing this for the 6th graders. Several of our students took comfort in that fact that we were embarrassed and nervous too! The day of the training, our students were fantastic. They completely surpassed my expectations.

I had students volunteering to run groups on their own instead of in pairs when the number of 6th graders exceeded our estimates (I was especially proud of one of my students with anxiety, who bravely volunteered to run her own group and did amazing with it!) There were 8th graders going out of their way to welcome students who were extremely nervous. I saw my shy students burst out of their shells and participate fully in every activity, which encouraged our 6th grade students to do the same. Many of our leaders even took it upon themselves to organize the 6th graders in the lunch line – something none of us had asked them to do, but man, were their efforts appreciated! In my opinion, the day went smoothly, and my 8th graders impressed me beyond belief.

I am excited to see how WEB transforms our school climate. We will have activities throughout the year that our WEB leaders will run, and I think the 8th graders are just as excited as we are about this. Seeing how WEB has already helped many of my students become stronger leaders makes me excited for the future. I anticipate great things for this year!

In the Shadows of the Maestros

Museo_del_Prado_(Madrid)_04

By Bill Waychunas

Today, I stood and waited in a line to get free entrance into The Prado art museum in Madrid, Spain. While everyone enjoys getting something for free, two things I generally try to avoid at all costs are waiting in long lines and art museums, especially modern art museums. Plus, it was HOT outside, like melt your flip-flop on the asphalt type of heat.

When I first spotted the length of the line, winding around the sidewalk and gardens outside of the Prado, the thought of turning around and going home popped into my mind. I decided to stay. Despite all the reasons I had to turn and run, I couldn’t help but feel an excitement come over me as I slid into my spot at the end of the line.

Everyone in line slowly shuffled forward, audibly groaning when the movement in the line paused and they found themselves in a spot on the sidewalk unprotected from the blazing-hot afternoon sun. At one such moment, I longingly looked behind me at the shade I had just left, trying to reconcile my conflicting desires for shade and progress towards the entrance.

My eyes followed the shadow across the sidewalk. As I glanced upward at its source, I came to the sudden realizations that I’d been standing under a statue of one of the Spanish masters (or maestros) in this case, Velasquez. A few more minutes of shuffling forward in line and I find myself in the shadow of another maestro. This time it’s Goya with a healthy smattering of pigeon crap covering his forehead as he gazes over the crowd.

My excitement grew, and I forgot about the line and the heat.

Once inside, I found that walking the gallery was blissful. But why? It wasn’t just because the museum had an excellent air conditioner; my mind drifted to another maestro but not one who’s paintings or sculptures would be found in a museum.

See, in Spanish, the word maestro has multiple meanings. One of the them can mean master, in the case of an expert, usually an artist. The other meaning is teacher, a different type of artist whose works of art are saved for the select few enrolled in their classes. Today I found myself in this museum as a sort of pilgrimage or tribute to one of my high school teachers, Señor Mendoza, my Spanish teacher for two years. He was truly a maestro in both meanings of the word.

In one of his Spanish classes, Señor Mendoza took some time to stray from the typical textbook curriculum and taught us about the most famous Spanish artists, including Goya, Velasquez, El Greco, Dalì, and Picasso. It wasn’t something that I was particularly excited about at first, but the stories he told about the artists lives and their pieces were captivating. He told us about some of the places where such works were housed and here is was, 15 or so years later, standing in the shadow of the maestros.

By my senior year of high school, I had decided that I would major in education in college and pursue a career as a teacher. This was certainly in no small part due to the excellent teachers I had, including Señor Mendoza. In fact, he was such an excellent maestro that I actually considered becoming a Spanish teacher for a short while. Thankfully, for the sake of the children, I choose to focus on social studies instead.

I found out soon after I graduated from high school that Señor Mendoza passed-away after a battle with cancer. I was lucky to have had his classes. More than just the lessons in Spanish and art history, I learned a lot from his teaching example, but in terms of the values and approaches he brought with him to class every day, including:

  • Learning should be fun – If it’s not fun or interesting, then make it fun and interesting. Part of this is remembering to laugh and smile often.
  • Be humble and honest – Admit when you make a mistake, share your personal passions and background with your students, and be able to laugh at yourself. It makes you a human instead of just a teacher.
  • Learning should be an experience – It’s not just about quizzes and tests. Change it up every once in a while. Kids won’t remember that awesome exit ticket you wrote but they will remember the projects they did and how you made them feel in class.  For example: Señor Mendoza would sometimes have us write and perform skits in Spanish using vocabulary from the unit instead of taking a test. I vividly remember playing the role of Señor Mendoza in a classroom scene where some of my friends played the role of students in our class, poking a little bit of good fun at everyone along the way. In fact, when I googled Señor Mendoza’s name, I found this comment on his rate-my-teachers profile which gives me some personal validation on my acting skills: waychunas1
  • Expose students to things outside of their bubbles – Sometimes, there’s value in being “culturally irrelevant” in the classroom and getting students out of their comfort zone. Art is not something that I would have ever been introduced to or would have sought out on my own. My world has been widened by his choice to expose us to that unit as well as some of the fantastic field trips we went on as part of his class, including one where I first tried some of my current favorite foods, tapas and paella.

On my stroll home from the museum, I stopped into a bar for a refreshing cerveza. When the waitress told me that the tap beer was out, she directed me towards their bottle selection. Like a sign from above, the first beer on display was called Maestra. I ordered one and raised my Maestra towards the sky for the maestro.

 

Counselor Book Review – Mockingbird

books-933333_960_720By Sabrina Bartels

Near the end of the school year, several of the staff members at my school decided to form a book club. However, we did not pick up the latest adult novel and dive in. Instead, we decided to focus on young adult and children’s literature. We compiled a list of books – some old classics and some newer ones as well – and picked those that we thought would help us gain insight into our students. We also chose books that we thought our students would enjoy reading, since getting students to read is crucial to their academic success. And trust me, there were a lot of books to choose from!

The first book we chose was called Mockingbird, by Kathryn Erskine, and I found myself learning so much from this novel. I’ll start by saying this: I think every educator should read Mockingbird. Anyone who regularly works with kids should buy or borrow a copy. You’ll be so glad you did.

Mockingbird is narrated by ten-year-old Caitlin, who has just lost her brother in a school shooting. What makes Caitlin so incredibly unique as a narrator is that she has Asberger Syndrome, which is on the autism spectrum. Many describe Asberger Syndrome as being part of the higher functioning end of the spectrum. Oftentimes, those with Asberger’s (and autism in general) struggle with social communication. In the book, Caitlin experiences difficulty with understanding people’s emotions based on their facial expressions. She also has very black-or-white thinking; everything is either right or wrong, with no in-between. As you go through the book, you are able to see Caitlin’s thought process for certain events, which had a huge impact on me. It really opened my eyes to how some of my students with autism may be thinking or feeling.

I remember learning a lot about autism during my undergrad years, but you can only learn so much from textbooks. This past year, I started working closely with a student who has autism. Similar to Caitlin, he is high functioning and very intelligent, but struggles with social communication. There are times when he and his teachers — or he and I — don’t see eye to eye, despite all of our best attempts. I remember he and I frequently talked about why he had to complete a certain assignment when he already knew and understood the material. I also remember an incident where he refused to give up his cell phone, even though he was using it in the locker room (where phones are not allowed.) When I explained that we can’t have cell phones in locker rooms for privacy reasons and that people sometimes take inappropriate pictures, he said that he should be allowed to have his phone because he would never do that.

Though Caitlin does not experience the same situations in the book, there are times when I feel like her inner dialogue may explain my own student’s thoughts and feelings. Being able to read how her logic plays out makes me understand my student better. Seeing how Caitlin reacts to situations – and seeing how those situations mirror my student’s situations – really helps me understand what I can do to be a better counselor for my students with autism and Asberger’s. I’ve learned that having a facial expressions chart could be very helpful for my students who struggle labeling their emotions. I can continue to demonstrate and model appropriate social behavior (looking at someone, listening with my whole body, etc.) I can continue to work with parents and outside therapists, which is a huge component to student success. By having everyone on the same page, you are better able to meet the needs of the student and ensure that you are all giving a consistent message. Finally, I learned that patience really is key. If Caitlin’s counselor, father, and teacher were not as patient, I don’t think Caitlin would’ve made the growth she did. It made me feel better to realize that I am not the only one who sometimes struggles with patience, and that I as a counselor am not alone in this.

But this book is not only for adults. I think this book could make a world of difference to a student who has Asberger’s. It shows them that they are not alone. Sometimes, my student believes that he is the only one who experiences what he does, and the only one who has to get through a school day with Asberger’s. This would show him that there are others who go through similar struggles that he does. But it also promotes empathy from other students. Children who read the book will see how Caitlin reacts to various situations. They may then later see a student in their classroom who has a similar reaction. My hope is that they will remember the story Mockingbird and be kinder to others. After all, a little kindness and understanding can go a long way.


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