By Leah Boucher – Staff Reporter
Hannah Somes and Willa Barron are starting off their teaching careers in France and China respectively, where they are teaching students English and learning more about other languages, as well.
Somes, who is a 2017 UMF Elementary Education graduate currently teaching conversation-oriented English classes at University of Angers, initially wanted to teach abroad in this country due to her interest in French that started in sixth grade.
“Ever since my first French class, I have been seeking more immersion in the language and wanted to travel to France,” said Somes in a Skype interview.
Somes first arrived in France in August and was quick to experience culture shock. “I was informed that I was not allowed to hand my class a syllabus,” said Somes. “France has a much more open view on education in this sense, which has quickly made me a strong and creative lesson planner.”
Somes was fortunate enough to study abroad at the University of Montreal for the spring semester of 2016, which prepared her for her current teaching position. “Being at a university in Quebec, I ended up speaking French the majority of the time,” said Somes. “Without this experience of constantly speaking in French for several months, I think my transition to France would have been much more difficult.”
Willa Barron, another 2017 UMF Elementary Education graduate, is teaching second grade in Shanghai, China, at Shanghai Fushan Zhengda Foreign Language Primary School. She first heard of this opportunity at an Educator’s Career Fair at UMF last March, where there were representatives from Lee Academy, a private high school in Maine.
Willa Barron teaches an English lesson to her students at the Fushan Primary School.
(Photo Courtesy of Willa Barron)
“Lee Academy has connections with many international schools, the Fushan school being one of them. When I heard about an opportunity to actually teach abroad, I jumped at it,” said Barron in a Skype interview.
Although there are many challenges that arise as a first-year teacher, Barron always tries to find the positives in her day through her students. “When I’m having one of those ‘I’m the worst teacher and I’m not doing well at my job’ days, I just think to myself ‘Even if I teach my students nothing all day, they are still learning English, which will get them so far in life,’” said Barron.
UMF not only has international alumna, but also current students who will represent the school while student teaching abroad in the spring of 2018. Bailey Ohman, a senior Elementary Education major who will be student teaching abroad in Daegu, South Korea, was initially worried about a language barrier between the students and herself. However, she was quickly informed that the school in Daegu has an English curriculum.
“At the Daegu International School, the curriculum is pretty much the same to that in America,” said Ohman. “They use Common Core throughout the school, and all students are expected to read and write in English. I am excited to listen to a different language being spoken among students in the halls and among people in the city, though.”
Barron encourages other education majors to put their fears aside and student teach or teach abroad. “Although some future teachers may worry about language barriers when teaching in foreign countries, it is always important to remember that we all smile and laugh in the same language, and that is one of the best ways to build relationships with students,” said Barron.
Leah Boucher –Staff Reporter
For the second year in a row, UMF hosted a summer institute for Maine educators and pre-service educators on June 23rd and 24th, where they learned how to incorporate nature into all areas of education.
Participants were able to get out and explore the nature around Farmington the day before the actual conference, where they could hike to Poplar Stream Hut and tour the local Bonney and Flint Woods, then settled back at UMF for a day of conferences.
Assistant Professor of Education and committee member for this institute, Kathryn Will-Dubyak, is pleased that UMF can offer a wide variety of conferences, which are the first of their kind in the area. “This is the only nature-based institute spanning Pre-K through 12 in greater New England to my knowledge,” said Will-Dubyak, “which creates an incredible opportunity for the many pre-service educators and educators around Farmington.” There were around 80 participants this year who attended both days.
From this program, participants were given the chance to listen to a variety of lectures but also participated in hands-on experiences, giving them first-hand knowledge on how nature plays a crucial role in education across grade levels.
“This summer institute helped educators either understand how they could begin to engage with nature in all areas of instruction or to develop their understanding of how nature can play a large role in a variety of instructional opportunities,” said Will-Dubyak.
Associate Professor of Science Education and another committee member of this institute, Carole Lee, was asked to be a leader in this year’s set of conferences.
“Last year, there was more of a focus on lower elementary grades, and I was thrilled to join this program and bring my knowledge of nature among the upper grades in school,” said Lee. “I led some conferences myself, such as Engineering Design Inspired by Nature as well as Biomimicry.”
Another conference participants could attend focused on the idea of a natural playground, which UMF was able to put into action last year outside the Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Education Center. A third-year child care aide at Sweatt-Winter, Ashley Hinkley, who is also a senior Elementary Education major, noticed a major shift in the design of the playground once the natural playground replaced the old one.
“The previous playground had one slide, a climbing wall, and a picnic table,” said Hinkley. “The natural playground has a berm for the kids to climb on with three slides and a garden that the kids water, pick from, and later eat.”
Another feature of this new playground that is a hit among the children is the bird-watching area. “There are bird feeders and bird baths outside, and inside there are journals for the children to sketch the birds they see through the window,” said Hinkley.
The bird sanctuary at Sweatt-Winter, part of the new natural playground on campus.
(Photo Courtesy of the UMF College of Education, Health, and Rehab Services.
Carole Lee is grateful that a topic from the conference was able to be shown to participants right here at UMF. “The success of the natural playground installation on campus shows educators that nature can help children see how they can interact with their environment in a positive way, such as feeding the birds and building houses for them,” said Lee.
There are plans for committee members to meet over the course of 2017 and 2018 to see if a third annual nature-based institute will take place next summer.
“We are not sure as of yet if it will happen, as it takes an incredible amount of people power for pre-conferences and conferences that only span two days, but it is definitely a possibility,” said Will-Dubyak.