Sunday, May 19, 2024

Education majors speak on program

(Left to right) Kiersten Wilkinson, Erin Lawliss, Prof. Kathryn Alton, Megan Tannacore, Mallory Hughes and Jillian Beauchamp at their undergraduate commencement.

 

By Nadia Paschal

Many students come to SUNY Plattsburgh for the school’s education program, where they can complete their undergraduate studies and receive a master’s degree in only five years. The school was originally a teaching college, and because the program is one of the larger ones offered here, the next generation of educators are on campus as students themselves.

Mallory Hughes is one of those students, and is currently in her fourth year and her first semester of grad school. She is an elementary education and special education major, with a specialization in English.

Hughes always wanted to work in a daycare, but found that this field was more practical. She has grown to love her studies and finds joy not only in her work, but her classmates as well. She can rely on them for anything and ask them any questions, as they all face the same problems and situations.

“It kind of just feels like a family at this point,” Hughes said.

Hughes has had many inspiring moments throughout her time in the education program, but said that the one that stuck with her the most was teaching a fifth grade class. She had wanted to work with younger students, but after completing her time with them, she realized that she would want to work with any grade level.

“It made me cry the last day,” Hughes said.

Kiersten Wilkinson, another early education and special education major, shared similar sentiments. She was originally a communication sciences and disorders major. However, she eventually realized education was a better fit.

Wilkinson has worked with children for a long time, through coaching them or working with them at summer camps.

“These kids need a voice and need someone to advocate for them,” Wilkinson said. “I always want to be that person that’s there to help students that might have not been there when I was growing up.”

Wilkinson is passionate about being the voice that these children need and strives to make a difference within the education system, and help students achieve their goals. She loves it when she’s working with students and sees the lesson click in their head.

“(We want to) make sure we know everyone’s equal, we don’t want to treat anyone differently. We want to give them the opportunities they can to succeed,” Wilkinson said.

Some of Wilkinson’s favorite aspects of the program are her peers and professors.

“I love all the people. All the professors, everyone that I’ve had is just very warm,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson also said that it feels good to have her professors refer to her and her classmates as their peers, as it encourages them to ask questions and make mistakes.

At this point in the program, students are much more hands on and learning through direct experience through field placements and student teaching.

However, much like every major, there are some downsides within the education program. Sibley Hall, which is where all the education classes are held, is not in the best shape. With extreme temperatures in classrooms, messy bathrooms, old furniture and no wheelchair accessibility, the building is not representative of the importance that this program holds.

The program does not receive a lot of funding, despite the large number of students who are a part of it. Most programs and buildings receive donations from alumni, but because teachers do not receive large salaries, Sibley Hall and the program do not have much financial support.

“Those are things that should be being advertised, and community members that are coming in, Sibley should be putting a best foot forward,” Wilkinson said. “It needs a facelift.”

Burnout is another issue many teachers face in the American education system. According to a study done by the Gallup Panel Workforce, 44% of teachers report feeling burned out often. 

With long hours, little pay and lack of support, some educators end up leaving the field entirely.

Hughes shared that she and her classmates have already faced burnout to a certain degree. She knows that she’s not the only one feeling this way and that she can get through it with her peers. Despite feeling nervous about potential burnout, her passion for teaching motivates her.

“I feel like the teachers that stick through it… It’s worth it (to them). Putting your all into something if you’re really passionate about it,” Hughes said.

Wilkinson and Hughes do not let these issues deter them. They continue to put their all into their work, and strive to become the teachers their future students need.

“You’re doing it for the students at the end of the day and making sure they have everything that they need — Not only with the curriculum, but just becoming good people,” Hughes said.

 

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