By Golly He Gets It!
Kristie was thrilled when one of her 7th graders interrupted the class, and her in mid-sentence, to exclaim, “Oh my gosh! I get it!” “He was just so excited, and he felt comfortable enough to share this with the class,” Kristie says.
She claims she is equally motivated by a student who just is not getting it. “This is when I reach deep into the toolbox that Antioch prepared me with. I challenge myself to find another way to explain it, and another activity so the student can discover it on his or her own.”
It wasn’t until her junior year in a traditional college, then a premed student pursuing a bachelor’s in biology, when a semester abroad shook Kristie’s world. “I was studying marine mammal biology and conservation in Mexico when I realized hands-on fieldwork and protecting the environment would be a driving force in my life.” After college Kristie taught environmental education for a handful of years at various science education centers when she decided a master’s degree in environmental studies would give her the right path to sharing her passion for the environment with others.
A Natural Fit
“Antioch,” Kristie said, “was a natural fit. My program was filled with like-minded people seeking similar things. We were as much teachers of each other as we were learners. The competition I remembered from my undergraduate years was replaced with collegiality. We were a community of learners.”\
Kristie says what she discovered about her own learning style helps her middle school students today. “My program required me to get know myself as a learner. Sometimes demonstrating my learning in ways that challenged my thinking and comfort level. So when challenges come up for me and for my students now, I am ready and anxious to face them. I learned to become reflective, and that makes me a better teacher. I reflect on what went well in my classroom and on what didn’t go well. I use that understanding to make changes in what and how I teach.”
“The master’s program helps you to understand the personal process you’ve gone through to become passionate about teaching, and passionate about the environment. This becomes the kindling in your toolbox if you ever need to remind yourself why you are in this field of work. It is there to refuel your fire.”
For her practicum, Kristie worked with Antioch New England Institute to bring service learning initiatives into public schools. “It was one of the ways the program blended theory and practice. I worked with a group of teachers and outside agencies to bring hands-on, environmentally focused, progressive education to children in the region. The practicum gave me insight into the inner workings of a public school, which was invaluable as an outreach educator. I helped teachers see how the environment and service learning can be used to teach and reinforce the concepts and skills reflected in their state and local frameworks.”
Since graduating, Kristie has been teaching middle school science in southern Vermont. Currently she is working with an Antioch student from the General Science Certification program. “My student teacher has brought new ideas into my classroom and has reminded me of things that I had forgotten. It was a way for me to give back to a program that I believe in and to continue learning myself.”