Student Spotlight: Bryan Eldridge

Bryan Eldridge

Class of 2019

Elementary Education ELA

Sanford High School

Sanford, ME

 

UMF CEHR: Why did you decide to go into teaching and did that foster your decision to choose UMF?

Bryan: I realized that I was able to connect well with younger people, specifically elementary-aged children. Once I knew that I wanted to be a teacher and that was where my passion lies, I knew that I had to go to a college that fostered my educational values, leading to my desire to attend UMF. I knew that UMF is a well-known school for education, so I decided that I would apply here and make it my top choice.  UMF was the only school I applied to, as it was my top and only choice. I was hoping that I would get in since I had no back-up, but I am so happy I did; it was the best decision I ever made.

UMF CEHR: Why did you choose the specific age group?

Bryan: I want to teach 3rd-6th grade. I want to teach the generation that is coming into their own age, independence, and individuality. These students want independence, but they also need guidance. The pre-teen age group wants to learn at an age that is comfortable for them, and I know that I can provide that while fostering different kinds of learning. As a teacher, I want to be inspirational to my students and leave a lasting impact, encouraging my students to grow up and become successful. Hopefully, my impact on my students will instill knowledge that they will never forget because that is what good teaching means to me.  

UMF CEHR: Is there something that you wish you knew about UMF before you came here?

Bryan:  Before I came here, I would have liked to know how close the community is here. UMF is a small campus that fosters powerful friendships and great connections. That being said, everything that happens on campus is public knowledge. That is not always a bad thing, but that’s what happens when you are in a small-knit community.

UMF CEHR: Is there something that you would like to share with our underclassmen and prospective students?

Bryan: I would tell all of my fellow UMF students to allow yourself to be a part of as much as you can. Indulge yourselves in these opportunities and challenges that come your way. New things will become available, so join them and be a part of this amazing community. UMF has great resources for all of our students, both academically and socially, so take advantage of it while you can.

Bryan is a CA on campus in the Mallet Residence hall. Here he is pictured with the other CA’s in Mallet.

 

UMF CEHR: Can you tell me about an unforgettable experience at UMF?

Bryan: Definitely becoming a Community Assistant (CA) on campus. I was hired as a CA for the first time last spring, so this is my first and unfortunately last year as a CA in the resident halls. It urged me to become more involved on campus, but also to make connections with the other CA’s. Being a CA is an opportunity I thought that I would not fit into, but I was wrong. I am more a part of UMF life than I ever was before, and I am so happy about it because UMF is an amazing place. Before becoming a CA, I lived in Scott and Purington, and this is my second year living in the Mallet resident hall.

UMF CEHR: You are student-teaching this semester. Can you explain where you are and why you chose that school?

Bryan: Student-teaching is very exciting because you get to see what it is like to be a teacher every day. I chose to have my student-teaching experience at an elementary school in Auburn. For my student-teaching experience, I really wanted to challenge myself and go outside of my comfort zone. I knew that it was going to be challenging and something that I had not experienced before, but I was okay with that. The school that I am at is very diverse and has a wide range of learners in the student body. There are many students who speak English as a second language. It really encourages me to think over my lessons and how I will make it accessible for all of my students. At the school of my placement, there are 22 different languages being spoken among students. The school also has many low-income students, so that encourages me to inspire my students and be a guiding figure for them. I want to be more than just a teacher, I want to show my students that they matter. I chose Auburn for these challenges because I wanted to learn and work through them before I get a classroom of my own. This experience is giving me the opportunity for growth, as this setting is something that I have never tried before. I could have chosen something more comfortable that I was used to, but I would not be learning nearly as much. This experience is exposing me to new areas, and I am so thankful to be where I am.

UMF CEHR: What is the classroom setting like? Do you teach all subjects or just one?

Bryan: As a fourth-grade teacher, we are responsible for teaching every subject in the classroom. My mentor and I take turns teaching portions of the class. Some weeks I will teach reading and writing every day and my mentor will teach math. It often changes who will teach what, but we operate very much like a co-taught classroom. During the week of March 3rd, I taught math every day to the whole class. It really gives me the opportunity to connect with students and understand how to differentiate my instruction. When I am not teaching, I go to other classrooms and observe teachers. The teachers have very diverse teaching styles, and I want as much exposure to varied instruction as I form my own teaching style.

UMF CEHR: Since you are in your last semester of school at UMF, you will begin looking at jobs soon. Have you started this process, and what advice do you have for others? Do you know where you would like to teach?

Bryan: There are online websites that have job postings in your areas, such as schoolspring.com and servingschools.com. A lot of places do not start posting and looking for new teacher openings until late March and early April. I have started to look, but I know that more will come up as time goes on. I would love to stay in Maine and teach in Cumberland County, but I am open-minded and will take what comes my way. A big piece of advice is to always keep building your resume and skill sets. Apply to as many places you can for the opportunity for growth and success. I attended the career fair last week. The career fair was an excellent opportunity to present myself to prospective schools and prepare me for success in the future. I would encourage anyone looking for a job in education post-graduation to attend the fair. All student teachers were required to attend. Schools came from all over to look for prospective hires. They often conduct small interviews as they get to know students that would make great additions to their schools. I love UMF’s teaching program because it is all about scaffolding. They provide support for students and slowly break away from the scaffold, allowing the student-teachers to do most of the teaching by the end.

UMF CEHR: We have current students who are not yet at the student-teaching phase, as that is typically the “last hoorah” of the education program. Can you tell our students who might be leading up to this experience what it’s like?

Bryan: The student teaching process starts about a year before student teaching. In order to get into practicum, you must pass Praxis I Core. For student teaching, you must have already passed Praxis II at least six months prior to student teaching. GPA requirements must be set, credits completed in the education program, meeting candidacy in order to get into student teaching. Once all of those requirements are met, you will meet with the director of field services, discussing where you would like to be placed. There is a lot of anxious waiting involved, but that is all part of the process. The field supervisors are tasked with placing students where they believe will be the best fit. About a month and a half before student teaching, you will meet your mentor. It is required that you meet with the mentor before the experience starts, and that is a good chance to get any of your burning questions answered.

UMF CEHR: Is there something you wish you knew about student teaching beforehand?

The UMF’s Aspiring Educators of Maine (pictured) hosted a literacy awareness program and brought in UMF’s Assistant Director of Upward Bound, Elyse Pratt-Ronco to speak about overcoming challenges that came up in various children’s books.

Bryan: Before beginning student teaching, everyone knows that it is overwhelming and lots of work going on, and I would say that is true. People often get caught up in the fact that it is work-heavy and forget to mention how much of an amazing experience it really is. Student teaching is a supportive environment. You mentor will support you, your supervisor will support you, and your peers are there for you along the way. There will be help along the way; you are not expected to do this experience all alone. I remember the good part of the support and how I am improving and growing. These are great experiences to be enjoying, so soak it all in. I commute over an hour to school every day, which can be a lot at times, but it allows me to debrief on my way to and from school each day. It is such a rewarding experience to see growth and learning taking place with students.

UMF CEHR: What makes student teaching so different from your two practicum experiences?

Bryan: During my first practicum experience, I got to experience what it is like as a teacher in a classroom; it was a preview of teaching. My second practicum was more hands-on with lesson planning and engaging with students, it included more of my signature teaching style. Student teaching, well, it is something new every day. I love that because every day brings a new challenge and opportunity. It is the full experience of being a teacher. Last week, towards the beginning of the month, I felt that I really indulged myself full feet into the experience. I was the only one teaching all week long. During my full week of teaching, I was teaching all subjects in the classroom. It was really challenging but a great learning opportunity that benefited both myself and my students. In the following weeks, I observed more. I truly believe that student teaching is more what you make of it. As a student teacher, you get to plan and communicate with your mentor teacher, which makes things enjoyable. When I exit the classroom to go observe, I get to see different learning styles and compare, which helps me discover what I would like to and might not choose to include in my own teaching style.

UMF CEHR: Can you tell me about your two practicum experiences?

Bryan: My first practicum experience was in a 4th-grade classroom in the Belgrade area. I was able to do a lot of observations. I also got to see what it is like to be a teacher for the first time. My second practicum experience was also in a 4th-grade classroom, but this time, I was in Madison. I had never been to that region of Maine, so it was something new that I got to explore. The community was well brought together. Each practicum brought something new. During my second practicum, I had an amazing mentor that gave me amazing feedback, but also let me foster my own teaching style. I am in 4th grade again for student teaching; it is an age group that I love dearly. If I could give advice to students who are beginning this journey, explore other grades and substitute teach; it gives you a good idea of what to expect.

Bryan (pictured in the back) attended the MEA fall conference hosted at the Samoset Resort in Rockport. Pictured is UMF’s Aspiring Educators of Maine club that Bryan was the president of.

 

UMF CEHR: Bryan, you were the President of UMF’s Aspiring Educators of Maine. How did your experiences as a member of the club help you as an aspiring educator?

Bryan: I was the President of the Aspiring Educator of Maine club last semester. I have been a member of the club since my freshman year. The club fosters a great community and I find myself always learning from my fellow aspiring educators. The club has been an amazing influence on me and my future, as I learn practical leadership skills that will help me become a successful educator. I have learned that education impacts more than just the classroom. I have been getting involved in leadership conferences and opportunities that I would not be able to experience otherwise. My second year, I was not as active on the club. Right now, I stepped down as president. I wanted to focus on student teaching, but it is great to see how the club is run not as a president. I personally think that they are doing a fantastic job.

UMF CEHR:  Do you have a favorite course that you have taken at UMF that has changed your outlook on teaching? Why?

Bryan: I took Screenwriting with Bill Mesce last year as English credits for my concentration. I took his courses back-to-back and they were some of the most amazing courses I have taken here. Dr. Mesce was so funny and relatable, as I found myself easily engaged in the course. During the course, we were reviewing many movies. One of the courses was on Blockbuster movies from each decade, starting from the 1960s to present. The second course, we were reviewing classic American Thrillers. It really taught me how I might appropriately use film to further learning in the classroom.  

UMF CEHR: You mentioned instructors that changed your outlook on your education. How will you foster that for your students?

Bryan: One big part of educational philosophy is creating an environment where students are being inspired and influenced every day; where they can be creative and show their true selves. I want my students to be as successful as they can be, helping them reach their future goals. My teachers and professors have inspired me through their passions and content. I want to correctly use the material to inspire students. My favorite subject to teach is writing. Writing has always been a strength of mine, as it was a great escape for me. It allows students to express their thoughts and feelings, and I think it is very important to provide that space and time for students to think critically.

UMF CEHR:  Have you had experiences so far with your (past) or present students that have changed their outlook on school?

The UMF Aspiring Educators of Maine club pictured before attending a dance at the MEA fall conference in October 2018.

 

Bryan: Being able to substitute teach in my hometown. My students recognize me and appreciate what I have done for them in the past. It is great to be able to give back to my community and be able to work with students. I love being able to come home to see students that I know I have impacted; it is a special feeling. In the future, I do not think I would want to work in my hometown. I do not think it would have the same vibe as being a substitute teacher. I want authentic relationships in the classroom. I also want to explore something new, just like I did with my student teaching. I really want to go back to Southern Maine to teach. I really hope to stay in Cumberland County, but I love exploring my horizons.

UMF CEHR:   If you could give any piece of advice to students at UMF, what would it be and why?

Bryan: I would advise anyone to do what makes you happy. Choose the career path that you would enjoy the most. Do not let yourself be held back by anything. Go for it! If I could do this whole experience over again, I wish I had been able to be a CA for a longer period of time. I would have become more involved with other clubs and organizations, but overall, I am very happy with the things I was able to do.

 

Bryan is almost done with his student teaching experience and has shared his portfolio with us! Please check out the amazing work that Bryan has done over the course of this semester.

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