Learning Specialist, Franklin Academy
Sara went to Syracuse University to get her undergraduate degree in secondary science education. While teaching, she realized how many students with disabilities were flying under the radar and not receiving the air that they needed from teachers. She decided to attend Southern Connecticut State University to get her Master's in special education with a concentration in assistive technology.
Often you hear about those great teachers who gave their students all this knowledge that they were able to take and use in their future schooling, job or life. I would argue that the greatest teachers are not the ones who teach you the most content, but those that teach you experiences that can change your life.
I was that little girl with every possible dream of what I would be when I grew up. I wanted to be a doctor, an actress, a singer, a teacher, a veterinarian and even a fire truck (yes, truck, not fireman — I was only 3). I kept some of those dreams as I went into high school, and my love for learning and helping others learn grew with me. That’s when Mr. Samuelson became my teacher.
He was my AP biology teacher, a subject I love, so it wouldn’t take too much effort to make me like you as the teacher. However, it wasn’t the content he won me over with; it was the way he let me learn. I was the type of kid that always learned the way I was supposed to: by reading, taking notes, studying hard, which all lead to those great grades. I did that in this biology class, but I also got a chance to learn a different way, without realizing that it would shape the rest of my life.
Of course in science class, there are tons of labs and hands-on experiences for learning. I always loved this part of science, because rather than reading about reactions and processes, I got to see them. There was one lab that really hit home with me, and Mr. Samuelson noticed. This was the fetal pig dissection (gross to most, awesome to me). Instead of a normal lab, it was a lab practical, so we had to be able to show Mr. Samuelson that we knew the anatomy by just looking at the pig. I went and showed him exactly how much I loved this lab. What he did next was let me use this love in a way I had never done before.
Mr. Samuelson let me go around and help teach the other kids in my class where all the different parts of the pig were before they went to go present to him. This became somewhat of a regular thing for the rest of the school year, where I got to help him teach the other students. For someone who was always kind of all over the place with figuring out what I wanted to be when I got older, this was one of the greatest experiences I could have had. I realized how much fun and how rewarding teaching really was. I also realized that I actually could combine my love for science, which had always made me want to me a doctor or a vet, with this rewarding feeling.
There is so much focus in schools now on cramming content into students’ heads and increasing test scores. Looking back on my schooling, I did study hard and tried to get good grades, but that isn’t what I would say was the defining moment of my school career. Years later, now a teacher and getting my Master’s, AP biology with Mr. Samuelson is still what I look back on as the greatest learning experience I have had. I think, at times, teachers and administrators need to think about the experiences they are giving their students, along with content knowledge. You never know where those experiences might bring students!