By Sophia Turgeon, Contributing Writer.
The Maine Department of Education announced this summer that they are eliminating the Praxis for aspiring teachers.
The Praxis is a series of tests created to fully equip college students for a career in teaching. The Praxis tests consist of multiple tiers of testing in certain subjects. Students were required to get certain scores on each test in order to advance into their practicum semester. On June 16 Governor Janet Mills signed a bill into law that resulted in Praxis exams being eliminated as a requirement for teachers.
Paige Polley, a current junior at the University of Maine at Farmington who took Praxis I is relieved that there is no more testing.
“As a person who doesn’t test well, Praxis did create a lot of stress for me that I feel like was unnecessary because it doesn’t reflect my intelligence and my ability to teach. However, with that being said, I did take my Praxis I at a time, which was $270 and I failed two of them, so I had to retest. And right after my retesting with passing results, I found out we didn’t need to take them anymore. I was upset and annoyed but now I don’t have to worry about Praxis II and wasting more money,” Polley said.
Money is oftentimes a concern for college students who have to spend hundreds of dollars on these tests.
Emma Williams, also a junior at UMF has a different way of thinking about Praxis exams being eliminated. Williams completed Praxis I and passed on her first attempt. She also had completed two portions of the Praxis II exams before the exam requirements were removed. With these tests being removed, students are worrying that they may not be as equipped for educating as some other teachers may be.
“I like it but it also concerns me. I’m happy I don’t have that pressure anymore, but worry when thinking about the future and how it will impact me, how I teach, and what I teach. How will I be compared to others who took them,” Williams said.
Williams also has taken both of her practicums and feels as though the Praxis exams served more as a refresher for general knowledge than a key element to being a good teacher.
“I feel as though the classes I was taking in college during my practicums were more important and impactful while in the classroom rather than the Praxis exams,” Williams confessed.
Individuals that are in the teaching community have been told how important these exams are to become certified educators. Now, without these exams being mandatory, students may feel some anxieties about how they will be successful teachers without the confidence of passing.
The Associate Professor of Secondary and Middle Education here at UMF, Clarissa Thompason, believes that these tests, along with standardized tests as a whole, are not the proper way to gauge whether or not a student would eventually become a good teacher.
“[…] I don’t think they [Praxis exams] really mark how bright you are, how motivated you are, or how well you’re gonna do in college. It discriminates against English language learners, it discriminates against kids from less privileged backgrounds, it discriminates against kids from poorer schools. It becomes a gateway here and kids who might be fantastic teachers can’t get past that and spend tons of money on it. So, they measure something, but it’s really small,” Thompson said.
Currently, licenced future Maine educators are required to get fingerprinted, earn at least a bachelor’s degree in education, and be accredited by a university.
By Madison Lecowitch Contributing Writer
The UMF Aspiring Educators Club inspires students to be lifelong educators who are passionate about teaching the next generation of leaders.
Bradley Howes, a junior at UMF, has participated in Aspiring Educators Club since his sophomore year. He decided to join when a former member came into one of his special education classes to promote the club.
Howes became the club’s treasurer once he realized the benefits that came with being involved in the club. “I enrolled for the treasurer after I came up with some fundraising ideas that met the clubs financial obligation,” said Howes. “It was once that I became the treasurer that I realized all the stuff that I could do that wasn’t written in the rules.”
The “stuff” that Howes was referring to includes setting up events, fundraising opportunities and promoting the club through class discussions around campus. Anyone who joins the club is encouraged to set up their own educational events. “If the students have an idea they want to do, they can come to any of us, and we will make it happen,” said Howes.
Jamie Dillon, president, joined the club to create opportunities for herself, to learn how to make connections with other educators and to provide connections for other people.
Dillon wants to see students in education majors thriving at UMF and in their careers. “[I hope to see] future educators more excited and less discouraged to go into the teaching field, so that they can make personal connections with one another and have strength in numbers and be more confident when they go out and get real jobs as teachers.”
The club was created five years ago with the goal to benefit students from all education majors. Howes encourages everyone who wishes to gain experience as an educator to join.“Pragmatically it makes you look good, because when you put that on a resume it shows you’re trying to be a lifelong learner and continuingly improving educator,” Howes said. “That’s a big thing that a lot of schools are looking for that a lot of people overlook.”
One of the greatest benefits that come with joining the club is the connection with the Maine Education Association. “[MEA] oversees all of the educators within the state of Maine, which includes preservice educators. We collaborate with their student collaborator, Dan Allen, to make sure we’re meeting their obligations,” said Howes. “He provides us with opportunities, we provide them with data and interest and what one of the best teaching schools in Maine is talking about. It is a mutually beneficial relationship where they want to get new blood and new information and we want their experience and their tips for us.”
Memberships to join the MEA are $28 for students. The club usually leaves money in the budget for free memberships that are need-based. A membership with the MEA allows you to attend two conferences, one in the fall that is held in Rockland and one in the spring that is held at UMF. In addition, you also receive access to the MEA magazine where there are helpful tips and information for future educators.
Howes encourages students to join the club as early as possible. “It is probably most beneficial for people to start early in the club around your freshman age. I started around my sophomore age, which means I got into my position as a junior and realistically that only gives me a year and a half to participate in it,” said Howes. “And then I have to student teach and that becomes my full attention.”
The Aspiring Educators Club meets every Tuesday at 7:30 pm in the Ed. Center, Rm.107. Howes encourages anyone who wishes to participate to come to the meetings. If there are any questions, students can contact Howes, or the rest of the Executive-Board at any time. The E-board includes Jamie Dillon, Danielle Bowler, Bradley Howes and Michaela Wright. “Anyone on the E-Board is open for questions,” Howes said. “Jamie Dillon is the president and you can email her at [email@example.com].” Howes’s email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Kaitlyn York Contributing Writer
The Aspiring Educators of Maine club at UMF plans to host Tales From the Classroom once again this November. Tales From the Classroom, a Halloween themed event, has been hosted by the Aspiring Educators since the club began, according to current President and senior, Brian Eldridge.
Students are encouraged to ask questions about being a teacher during the Q&A section (Photo Courtesy of Kaitlyn York)
“[It is an event that] that invites different educators from around the community, locally and nonlocally, to come and talk about their experiences in the classroom,” said Eldridge. “We have a range of grade levels and experience levels all the way from first year teachers to veteran teachers.”
The event includes a potluck to kick off the evening, which is then followed by a panel-style question and answer session. Vice president and junior Carson Hope said the club creates questions for the panel, asking about their stories from the classroom and advice on things club members are concerned about or would like to know more about from teachers.
The event then opens up and gives an opportunity for audience members to ask their questions. The stories are packed with “the good, the bad, and the ugly,” according to the club’s Facebook page.
“We invited all teachers who haven’t done it before so that we can hear new perspectives,” said Hope. “We also wanted to make a more diverse panel this year. In the past it has been a lot of secondary ed teachers, but we have a Secondary Ed teacher, a Special Ed teacher, and an Elementary Ed teacher this year.” Hope believes this is the first time there has been a special education teacher on the panel.
The club has made changes to the event over the years. The event used to be known as “Scarefest” and has since been changed to make it less intimidating, according to Hope. Aspiring Educators continue to host this event as they feel it is beneficial to prospective teachers.
“It gives some really valuable lessons and ideas for incoming teachers to understand kind of what they may or may not be able to expect, as well as, some of the everyday things that definitely happens that you can prepare for when you’re in the classroom,” said Eldridge.
People who have attended this event in the past seem to have enjoyed and valued the experience. Hope said people learn a lot from various experiences the teachers have had, including answers to questions that students may not learn about in their classes at UMF. Junior and Elementary Education major, Brooke Michonski, said she overall enjoyed and benefited from the event.
“I would attend again in the future because I think it is a very open place to be able to go and ask any questions that I have freely without fear of being judged and knowing that I’m going to get a direct answer,” said Michonski. “You can learn a lot from it, as an upcoming teacher I could always use advice from older teachers.”
This year’s Tales From the Classroom event will take place on November 1st in The Landing. The potluck will begin at 5:30 p.m. and the tales will begin at 6 p.m. It is a free event. For more information, go to the club’s Facebook page, UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine.
By Andrew Devine – Editor-in-Chief
The UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine (AEM) hosted a panel of teachers to discuss horror stories, life lessons, and experiences that came from working in the classroom.
The panel consisted of teachers of all levels: Dan Ryder and Andrea Palmer, who have been teaching for about twenty years, high school and first grade respectively, Chelsey Oliver, a first-year teacher and recent graduate from UMF, and Elaine Grant, a retired teacher that taught for nearly 40 years.
The program started with a potluck style dinner to which all attendees were invited. Following the meal, the panel began with a light-hearted question that led to some serious answers: “What is your favorite story to tell about teaching?”
Most responses from the panelists resulted in profound lessons that the group had gathered over what amounted to over 80 collective years of teaching. Dan Ryder, an English teacher at Mt. Blue High School for nearly 20 years, included some of these important responses.
“You can be friendly without being a friend,” and “You have to be authentic, and figure out what that means exactly,” were some of the lessons Ryder shared with the club.
Students in attendance seem to have taken in important lessons pertaining to their future careers from the event.
Bradley Howes, a sophomore Secondary Education student who worked with Ryder during his practicum, said, “What I took away from it is, you’re going to screw up many times in your first, second, and third years; the point is you have to go with it and own it.”
On the horror theme of the event, Bryan Eldridge, a member of AEM, said: “Kids aren’t scary; kids are only scary if you make them scary.”
Stephen Riitano, President of UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine.
(Photo courtesy of Andrew Devine)
Stephen Riitano, President of UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine, helped organize the event and led the panel on stage in the Landing. Riitano said, despite the title of the event, which is a spin on the 1980s television program: ‘Tales From the Crypt’, it was not meant to be a scare.
“I think the big thing was a balance between horror stories and what is rewarding and informative about teaching.” Riitano said, “If we had just done an hour full of the worst that can happen, it might come as turning some people off.”
AEM has held similar events in the past, under former name Student Maine Educators Association, and hopes to continue work in aiding students in their advancement towards work in the education field.
“It’s usually an annual event that Aspiring Educators does,” said Riitano. “Last year it really wasn’t that big, there were only five or six people in the Ed Center lobby, so it was great to have 65 people show up.”
This event, and the high attendance, shows the progress the club has shown since the start of the school year.
The club will be hosting an event focusing on Special Education in November.
By Gwen Baker – Contributing Writer
Over 70 bodies were squeezed into The Landing like moviegoers on opening night as people waited for Kelly-Anne Rush to speak about her experiences as a teacher. Dressed in a black and white striped dress with a cardigan on and an honest but positive attitude, Rush gave hope to the aspiring educators in the room.
Currently, a social studies teacher at Windham High School, Rush started by telling a story of what inspired her to become a teacher, dating all the way back to elementary school. Her second-grade teacher, Mrs. Rich, saw something in her that she didn’t yet know at eight years old. When Rush wanted to be in the ensemble for the class play Little Bunny Sue, Rich said to her, “you know what? I think you should be Little Bunny Sue.” Although Rush did not believe she could do it, Mrs. Rich assured her that she had confidence in her.
Rush then discussed overcoming challenges students may face after graduating from college. She explained how she paid off her student loans by becoming a professional live-in nanny through the agency Beacon Hill Nannies outside of Boston for a year.
Rush wasn’t always at Windham High School; she first started teaching at Lake Region High School as a long-term sub, which turned into eight years of teaching there. While she had strong relationships with students and colleagues, she emphasized going out of your comfort zone in order to grow.
Her transition to Windham High School wasn’t the easiest. Halfway into her first day at WHS, she cried in the teacher’s room. She told the audience, “I did not anticipate the feeling I would have of not having any connections to any students.” While this was a low point in Rush’s life, she told this story to show that there are going to be days, months and years where work isn’t going to be easy.
She also discussed how to juggle finances on a teacher’s salary. Going into her sixth year at WHS, she has picked up different stipend positions at the school over the years such as homecoming coordinator and class advisor. Outside of school, she sells clothes on consignment and refinishes furniture found at Goodwill, Poshmark and Salvation Army. She also flips several houses to earn extra money. In the past, she owned a photography business during the summer.
She showed the audience her teaching blog that she created. It has teaching resources for ways to help stay organized in the classroom. She discussed the power of social media and how her website has become popular amongst the teaching community. One of her posts has been viewed 250,000 times.
Rush’s ability to connect with the audience and add humor allowed others to feel at ease going into the teaching profession. “I really appreciate that was she was honest about the fact that the profession isn’t always easy,” said Jacqueline Gleason Biore, a sophomore majoring in Secondary Education English and French. “She was preparing us well for what we might experience. It will be hard sometimes but that doesn’t mean you should quit because it can be hard for everyone.”
Rush offered advice to anyone struggling with the responsibilities of being an educator. “Stay true to who you are as a teacher and really try to build relationships, eventually you’re going to feel great there and comfortable.”