Christina Dionne: Striving to Make a Difference

Recently, one of UMF’s alumna was featured on the Mt. Blue Regional School District website for her exemplary work in building relationships with students and individualizing instruction. Christina Dionne, a graduate from UMF’s Secondary Education program, is currently teaching math at Mt. Blue Middle School and taking strides everyday to better herself as an educator and her students as learners.

Christina has always liked math, and she was in the advanced math classes in high school. When she first came to UMF she was an art major, but after her freshman year she changed her major so that she could pursue a career in math. The UMF methods courses that Christina took brought about a passion for teaching in her.

After graduating, Christina took a job as a camp counselor. Two years later, she became the arts and crafts specialist at camp. On her fourth year, Christina was promoted to being a unit leader and was responsible for managing the four groups within her unit, communicating with parents, and organizing activities and field trips. Eventually, Christina took on a job in early childhood, where she was able to understand child development more clearly and gain an understanding of how to better implement a curriculum with a holistic approach. Christina then took on her position at Mt. Blue Middle School.

Christina has expressed her commitment to proficiency-based education, which helped her to earn the respect of administration. Christina puts in very long hours at school, staying late to volunteer with After School Study and immerses herself in her work and her students.

One of Christina’s goals is to develop a proficiency-based program in math and show her students how to track their own progress in comparison with the standards. Christina would like to incorporate a more hands on approach that requires students to solve real-life math problems, and to implement the skills they learn both inside and outside of the classroom. She loves to challenge her students’ critical thinking.

Along with increasing student proficiency, Christina also makes it a point to create a student community in her classroom. Students often work together to learn from one another, build peer relationships, and increase their self esteem. This approach allows Christina to individualize instruction for those who need it while others are working together.

When asked about the challenges that she faces, Christina said that student frustration and behavior can be difficult. Christina tries to understand the cause of the behavior and work with the student to help them solve whatever problem they are facing. She aims to build healthy, valuable relationships with students. Christina also works at getting students interested in math. She uses various techniques, approaches, games, and activities to make learning math more fun and applicable.

Christina is one of many amazing teachers to have come from a UMF Teacher Education Program, and Mt. Blue Middle School and her students are lucky to have her! For more information about the amazing schools and opportunities in the Mt. Blue Regional School District, check out their website!

 

Maria Minor Newcomb and the MAHPERD Conference

Maria Minor Newcomb recently earner her Master’s of Education from the University of Maine at Farmington, and she is taking on a leadership and advocacy role as the President elect of the Maine Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (MAHPERD)! The MAHPERD organization consists of 800+ educators/members and is responsible for cutting edge professional development.

From November 5th-7th, MAHPERD will be hosting their 72nd annual conference at the Samoset Resort in Rockport, ME. Featuring two keynote speakers, and over 70 state and national speakers, this conference is sure to have something that will interest all educators and health/physical education professionals.

The two keynote speakers featured in this year’s conference are Joshua Medcalf and Judy LoBianco. Joshua Medcalf is the president and founder of Train to be CLUTCH. Joshua created the first mental training apps in the world of basketball, soccer, and golf. He is one of two people ever invited to work with the UNC Women’s soccer team, who have won 22 national championships! Joshua has published four books, and every conference participant will receive a free copy of his book Chop Wood, Carry Water: How to Fall in Love with the Process of Becoming Great. Joshua will be speaking during the General Session on Monday from 11:20-12:30 in the Knox County Ballroom.

Judy LoBianco is the president elect for SHAPE America. Judy will be addressing the need for advocacy in professionals at local levels to “take back our profession, one gymnasium and classroom at a time.” Judy will be presenting during the All Conference Session on Monday from 1:15-2:10 in the State of Maine Hall.

 

This is sure to be a great conference, and it is a wonderful opportunity to build on professional development and to collaborate with other colleagues. Information about the conference is posted below, but for a full schedule and itinerary, click here. For more information about MHPERD, visit their website.

  

Hannah and Hannah in France: An Update

As some of you may remember from our post a couple of months back, there are two UMF alumna, Hannah Some and Hannah Carlson, who are teaching English at the university level in Le Mans, France! After having been there for a couple of months, Hannah and Hannah have begun to adjust and have shared some information about their experiences thus far with us.

Both women report not experiencing much of a culture shock when moving to France. Hannah Somes describes it as “such a Westernized country that it really does not feel very different to me in my daily life than the U.S.” Hannah Carlson had already studied abroad in Le Mans during her undergraduate career at UMF, so she was already somewhat familiar with life in Le Mans and in France. There were some tasks that they had to complete when they first arrived, such as setting up a bank account, which was difficult with the language barriers.

The classes that Hannah and Hannah are leading are discussion based, designed to help students improve on their English language skills. The classes are very open and broad, allowing the instructor to tailor the lessons towards student interests. “My courses are very speaking intensive; the students are really engaging in holding conversation and using their oral language” said Hannah Somes. Hannah S. indicates that her classes are large (55 to 65 students) making it difficult to have each student speak. She says, “…in these classes I have students talk in a group about a topic and the group presents on a topic of their choosing.” In Hannah S.’s smaller classes she has students do individual presentations and whole-group discussions.

Hannah and Hannah both have very long, busy schedules throughout the day. Hannah Somes teaches for a couple of hours in the morning and afternoon, taking a lunch break at home in between classes as meals are very important in France. Sometimes, she teaches evening courses as well. Hannah Carlson also has a busy schedule, as she is teaching 17 groups of French students this semester. “I have between 10 to 20 students in each class, so there are a lot of students to remember,” Hannah Carlson explains. “I meet with each group once a week. The course title is expression orale, which means it’s a speaking class. The students vary in level, from L1-L3. French universities only have three years of undergraduate study. So far, I have covered topics such as censorship in the United States and pop culture.”

There are some noticeable differences between French and American universities. Hannah Carlson discussed differences in the structure of classes. For example, if a student at a French university changes major, they have to start all over again and the previous classes completed/credits earned do not count towards the new major. They also have longer days at French universities, students are in class from 8 or 9 AM to 5 or 6 PM. “French students are also less willing to raise their hand in class and share answers or their opinion,” said Hannah C. “Classes aren’t set up for class discussion and are instead often lectures where students take notes and occasionally share answers. In my classes, it is sometimes difficult to get students to share answers and their opinion.” This has been a challenge for Hannah, but she has been working around it. “Some of the students have a lower English proficiency and have trouble understanding me. There is also a stigma towards French students sharing the wrong answer here. I’ve been trying to make my students feel comfortable in the class, which would help them be more willing to talk.” Hannah says that her classes at UMF helped to prepare her for her role as a lectrice by having many opportunities to be in front of a classroom.

While they have been busy teaching, they have also been able to find some time to enjoy all that France and Le Mans has to offer! Hannah Somes’ favorite memory so far was a British themed festival that occurred in September throughout the city featuring a Beatles cover band!

Moving across the world to teach in a new place can be overwhelming, but it is definitely rewarding. When asked what advice she had for those interested in moving abroad, Hannah Somes said “French institutions give less direct, step-by-step directions than in the U.S., so it is necessary to be self-directed and autonomous.” Hannah Carlson discusses the challenge that the language barrier presents when interacting in the community. “One of the biggest difficulties of living in France is the language barrier,” she said. “My language proficiency is slowly improving, but it can be hard at times. When I first arrived, I had to set up a bank account by myself with someone who didn’t speak English.” Language barriers can be challenging, and it is important to be aware of these changes and differences before making such a move, but they can be planned for.

All of us here at UMF are happy to hear that Hannah and Hannah have adjusted and are enjoying their new lives in France. Stay up to date with the ED360 blog to receive more updates about their positions and to learn more about the various opportunities that UMF provides both pre- and post-graduation.

Recent Grads off to Paris!

Graduating from college is a very exciting time, but can also be stressful for many as they try to find a great job within their chosen field. However, two recent UMF graduates have found themselves with teaching positions at France universities! Hannah Somes and Hannah Carlson will be moving to France later this month to begin this new journey.

Both Hannah Somes and Hannah Carlson will be leading conversation-oriented English courses at the university level in order to help students become more fluent in English. They both learned about this opportunity through the French professors at UMF.

Hannah Somes will be living in Angers and will be residing in a dorm room in the campus residences. When asked what she is most looking forward to, Hannah said that she is hoping to gain an increased sense of confidence in herself as well as self-sufficiency. Hannah is also looking forward to being on the “other side” of the university experience as a faculty member this time. When asked what she is nervous about, she said “I am most nervous about leading my own class of university students who have a different first language from my own,” which is something that anyone would be nervous about! This is also the furthest from her family and friends she will have ever been, so that will be an adjustment as well.

Hannah Carlson will be living in an apartment in Les Mans, a city that is just about an hour train ride from Paris! Hannah is looking forward to becoming more proficient in French and to teaching English to the students in Les Mans. Hannah studied abroad for the spring 2016 semester in Les Mans (pictured right), so she is already familiar with the area. Hannah said she is also looking forward to traveling and seeing more of France and Europe.

What an amazing opportunity for these UMF alumna! We are very excited for the both of them and cannot wait to hear more about their adventures. Be sure to stay up to date with the ED360 blog to learn about more opportunities like this, as well as to hear from the Hannah’s again and learn about how their experience is going! From all of us at the University of Maine at Farmington, good luck and safe travels to the Hannah’s!

Alumni Connection: PBE with RSU4’s Laurie Catanese

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-8-33-26-pmOn Wednesday October 12th, Johanna Prince, Director of Graduate Programs got to see alumna Laurie (Rodrigue) Catanese (MSEd in Educational Leadership 2015) in her new role as Assistant Principal of Oak Hill High School in RSU 4.  Laurie began her morning working with a teacher who was creating a new unit plan as part of the district’s work in Proficiency Based Education.  

screen-shot-2016-10-17-at-8-37-36-pmAfter a tour of the building, Laurie was able to share her energy and excitement for supporting staff and her passion for bringing engaging, relevant, hands-on learning to students.  Laurie shared that her capstone research on the value of mentoring has helped her feel prepared for supporting the teachers she works with and aligning that support to district goals.

Keep up the great work, Laurie!