Q&A with Kristine Burke, student in the MS in Environmental Studies, Science Teacher Certification (STC) program.
Why did you originally choose Antioch?
I worked at an environmental consulting company for many years doing ecological surveys (bat species/habitat) and could no longer fight the feeling I was supposed to be a teacher. As an ecologist, you move quite a bit and I was ready to have a fulltime career and become part of a community. I chose Antioch University New England because it is the only program in the country where I was able to receive my Masters in a hard science (Environmental Studies) and become certified to teach. This was very important to me because it gave me flexibility if an amazing job outside of formal classrooms is available; my Master’s degree has not pigeonholed me to work strictly within the confines of education.
With that said, I have been substitute teaching in schools for extra insight and I am “dead-set” on being a science teacher after I graduate!
Would you choose Antioch + the STC program again, if you were able to go back in time?
Yes, I would. It has been the best decision I have ever made. The STC program is changing the way science education is taught in schools. I read articles on NPR and Edutopia about “cutting edge” science education techniques and Jimmy, the director of Science Teaching Certification, has been teaching his students these techniques for the past 23 years. I have been substituting in schools in New Hampshire and this has convinced me that students desperately need teachers who will give them the opportunity to explore inquiry-based learning. Inquiry-based learning feeds into a student’s self-confidence and they are transformed by the techniques taught in our program. It is extremely rewarding.
What is the best part of Antioch University, now that you have gotten to know it pretty well?
After I visited, I knew it was the only school for me. Antioch is a very special place where I have met friends that I have been waiting for my whole life. The school attracts a certain type of person and it is hard to fully describe the magic of the people who attend. Most of the students and faculty at our University are very concerned with making the world a better place.
Also, it is important to note that the faculty at Antioch give you room to be yourself and you have the ability to tailor your projects and papers to what interests you. I recently took a School Law class and my final presentation was an overview of the law statute of “Duty to Warn” and assessing students’ risk of tick-borne illnesses when learning in the outdoors. I am using this presentation as a basis for a class I am taking in the fall where we will explore the implementation of Place-Based Education programs in schools. Antioch allows you to tailor your classes to support the goals you want to achieve.
What is the most positive part of the STC program?
It is a small program and learning is hands-on! I attended a state school for my undergraduate program and I rarely interacted with my professors and most of my classes consisted of lectures. To be honest, I did not feel like I was a good student because of the lecture-based classes; Antioch has changed this thinking. The STC program is very hands-on and your first semester you are learning in schools in the Problem Solving Science course. All of our courses have an aspect of science and sustainability, and like I said, you can tailor your projects to support your dreams and aspirations as a science educator.
What is the largest drawback to the STC program?
For me, the largest drawback of the STC program is that our classes are on Thursdays and Fridays and this prevents you from holding a full-time job. I am 30 years old and sometimes I miss my old life (and bank statement) of working a job 9-5 Monday through Friday. It may be possible to work 40 hours a week, but I believe this will take away from the time you can spend doing the readings and working on your projects. I made the conscious decision to work less and focus on my schoolwork. I did not do this in my undergraduate and I regret it.
With that said, time in this program flies. I have 9 months until I graduate in May 2019.
How time-intensive is the STC program?
It can be as time intensive as you want it to be. I definitely have a “Type A” personality and spend more time on my projects than I should. I am really busy but I still am enjoying the program.
For me: I work 12 hours a week with the Work-study program, and then I also live on a farm about an hour north of campus. I work on the farm in exchange for a place to live. This has really helped relieve some of the financial pressure. Work study jobs pay $14.00 an hour, which is really great! I found my host family through Helpx.net.
Is the program challenging/stimulating?
Yes, but it is as challenging as you make it. AUNE does apply a grading system to our work. You are in charge of the quality of your work! You will find that this will make you work harder! The course facilitators are very clear that you will have to skim some of the readings and are open to talk about your needs (extended deadlines, more concise papers, etc.)
Do you find the staff/students supportive?
Extremely supportive. I attended Ball State University in my undergraduate and I do not believe I ever had contact with my professors or counselors outside of the class time. Jimmy, STC Director, is extremely responsive. He expects a lot from our work but he also relentless in supporting his STC students during the program and after. He helps STC students navigate the job hunting and contract process. You will not find this type of support anywhere else.
Your cohort (other STC) students are also very supportive. Miranda, Andrew, Mallory, Kyle and Caitlin have become some of my best friends. We are in contact quite a bit through text messaging communicating about our projects and classes.
Also, it is important to note that Jimmy has designed the courses so that all of our projects support our ability to obtain a great teaching position. All of your projects will be uploaded onto an online portfolio to showcase your work to administrators, principals, and students.
Do you think this program has prepared you to serve in a non-formal field as well as a formal field (i.e. nature center/etc.)?
Formal classrooms: Yes!.-During your first semester you will be in a school teaching problem-solving based lessons. This is well supported and you are co-teaching with another classmate. During the second fall semester STC students are in a classroom and you have the opportunity to observe, design and teach more in depth lessons. I had minimal teaching experience before beginning the program and that should not discourage you because you are learning a new way to facilitate classrooms. I began substitute teaching and volunteering in classrooms to extend my experience in formal classrooms. It has been very helpful in building my comfort and confidence speaking in front of a class.
Nature-centers: Yes.-! The student body in our classes are mixed with the other programs (Environmental Education, Conservation Biology, etc.) Because of this you learn from each other. You also have the ability to take an elective that will support teaching in a nature center and you can also take an additional elective course in another department for”free” to support working in a nature center. There are many STC alumni who went straight into becoming Education Directors at nature centers. I spoke with alum, Lori Kinsey, who now the Executive Director at Tin Mountain Conservation Center, before enrolling. She completed many STC program and was hired out of the program as the Education Director.
I have noticed that a lot of nature centers work directly with schools and teachers. I think our program has a great angle because we know what is expected of teachers and students. We also have the insight of how to tie the Next Generation Science Standards to lessons that will support students when they return to the classroom.
Jimmy has a long list of STC alumni that have chosen formal/informal-teaching positions and he would be happy to connect you with them. I have spoken to a few and they have been extremely insightful.
Is there anything else you want to share?
If you haven’t come to visit, please do! I knew I wanted to go to Antioch University but after visiting it was very clear it was the place for me.
The love of nature, science, social justice and education seeps from this school. Antioch houses some of the kindest and intelligent people I have ever met. You will be working very hard while you are in graduate school and surrounding yourself with these types of people; this makes it a great experience!
Lastly, I am an open book. Please feel free to call, email, or text with other questions about visiting, moving, working in Keene, etc. I would like to hear your story and what attracted you to Antioch too!