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Olivia Enders - Creating a Dynamic Atmosphere for Students

Published on 3/15/2016 6:00:00 AM

Name: Olivia Enders
Role: Middle School Learning Support Teacher at Peters Township Middle School
Graduating Degree Program: Master of Special Education with Academic Instruction Certificate (MOSAIC)

What and where is your current position and what is your favorite aspect about your job?
I am currently a middle school learning support teacher at Peters Township Middle School [in Washington County]. My favorite aspect of my job is when I can celebrate the varied successes of my students, whether that be their acing a challenging math test, learning how to ask for help, finding deeper meaning in Shakespeare, or earning Hot Cheetos as part of a behavior plan. I find that taking time to appreciate both the large and small gains creates a dynamic atmosphere where learning is exciting for students, and I look forward to being a part of that atmosphere every day.

Where did your initial interest in education come from?
My interest in education came from a deep appreciation of learning and the opportunities that education provides individuals. It also comes from the realization that not all students are provided with equitable access to these opportunities. As I started to volunteer more in public school systems through local Pittsburgh organizations, I realized that these barriers to quality education, though complex and often intimidating, are not insurmountable. I wanted to do something about those barriers, and felt that teaching was a career in which I could have a tangible impact, connecting students to education so that they could become the best versions of themselves.

What was the best part about the MOSAIC program and how did it prepare you to enter the field?
The best part about MOSAIC was that it connected me to a network of dynamic educators who continue to support me to this very day. My professors taught me teaching practices that actually, not just theoretically, worked to increase student learning. They also taught me how to read research, so that as the field continues to change, I can remain steady in my firm belief in evidence-based practices.

The fellow students in my MOSAIC program are also part of that valuable network. As we struggled through the trials of being new teachers, our cohort bonded together. I still keep in contact, share lesson plans, and collaborate with my cohort, and our common bond created by the MOSAIC program is invaluable to my practice. I don't think a new teacher is ever fully-prepared, but luckily, MOSAIC isn't just a program that leaves you hanging after you graduate. Rather, MOSAIC is an ever-growing group of individuals committed to continuing high-quality teaching and learning, and I feel grateful to be a part of that network.

How did faculty, mentors, and/or fellow students help you outside of class?
I remember one Saturday, being really stressed about lesson planning, passing my Praxis tests, completing all of my assignments for school, and finding a job. I sent a frantic e-mail to one of my professors, asking for clarification on how to interpret the results of an achievement test, a challenging task for an English teacher who left numbers in high school. Not even an hour later, I was having coffee and talking through my struggles with a professional who was genuinely interested in my emotional well-being as a fragile new teacher.

I know of no other program in which the faculty would go to those lengths to ensure the success of its' students, and this spirit of camaraderie between faculty and students was a great model for my own classroom. My mentors also continue to be a crucial part of my professional life. I am now connected to a mentor who I can talk about anything and everything with--from the student who has me stymied, to the parent whom I am trying to connect with, to the necessity of creating a work-life balance. Teaching is so much harder than I ever imagined, and so I am thankful that MOSAIC has extended far beyond the classroom.

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