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Teaching Fellows host alumni panel seminar on public school choices

The Elon University Teaching Fellows hosted their annual Fall Seminar on Tuesday, Oct. 23, which featured a panel of six alumni who are now teachers throughout the state of North Carolina.

Fall 2012 Teaching Fellows Alumni Panel: Jordan McNeill '11, Walt Yates '10, Sara Riek '10, Meghan Cathey '10, Casey Collins '11 and Katie Puckett '11

The panelists included Meghan Cathey '10, Casey Collins '11, Jordan McNeill '11, Katie Puckett '11, Sara Riek '10, and Walt Yates '10, each representing a teaching experience and placement unique to the typical public school. These experiences included year-long schools, Title I schools, Montessori schools, charter schools, and college preparatory schools.

Moderated by Connor McDade, junior Teaching Fellow, and Elayne Monjar, senior Teaching Fellow, the panelists were asked questions previously submitted by the Teaching Fellows. Questions ranged from what the panelists found most surprising about their first year of teaching to more specific inquiries about their individual placements in the school system.

Casey Collins discussed the surprises she has encountered as a Music Education teacher at Eastlawn Elementary. Before working at Eastlawn, Collins never expected to be teaching anything besides music, but the unique structure of her school has her teaching literacy and math for a small portion of the day. She admitted that there are both positive and negative aspects to this system, but overall she believes it works for the kids. Ms. Collins has learned to be flexible within her school and open to new experiences because of this.

Walt Yates, a mathematics teacher at GTCC Middle School, expressed that flexibility is the beauty of teaching. If a lesson doesn’t go as planned, tomorrow is a new day. If a student misbehaves, there is always tomorrow to start fresh.

Meghan Cathey, third grade teacher at Virginia Cross Elementary, agreed with Mr. Yates’ point. She encounters many students who bring the troubles of their home life into the classroom. She finds it important to address these issues rather than ignore them. “You have to be real,” Cathey insisted, “your kids will be able to tell if you are not”.

Freedom of instruction and discipline methods include some of the other topics that were also addressed by the panelists. Jordan McNeill, a Special Education teacher at South Graham Elementary, noted how different her discipline methods have to be due to working in a self-contained classroom. McNeill expressed that it can be difficult when those observing her do not fully understand her strategies, but nevertheless she is constantly evolving her ways to create the safest environment for her children.

Sara Riek and Katie Puckett enlightened the audience on the freedoms they receive by teaching at a Montessori and Charter school, respectively. Riek enjoys the added responsibility of teaching her children moral values and community building, some of the core ideals of a Montessori education.

The informative panel concluded with a brief reception and the opportunity to speak with the alumni individually. The Teaching Fellows were greatly appreciative of the useful insight and advice provided by the panelists.

Submitted by Shannon Major '15 Teaching Fellow

Jennifer Fish,
10/30/2012 5:33 PM