Last fall, Matt Miles ’12, a native of Two Rivers, was getting ready for his final year as a music education major at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh by buying text books and stocking up on fresh pens, pencils and paper.
This year, the tables are turned as he is organizing his office and cleaning his classroom in preparation for his first teaching position with the Underwood Public School District in North Dakota.
“The biggest thing has been trying to think of myself as a teacher and not as a student,” he said. “It’s quite a transition. I’ve been a student for the last 19 years and now I’m immediately moving to the other side of the spectrum.”
UWO’s College of Education and Human Services graduates approximately 275 education majors each year who soon move on to teaching in school districts across Wisconsin and the nation.
Elementary and special education graduate Heather Kimme ’12, of Stevens Point, has long dreamed of having her own classroom.
“For years, I have been collecting things to go into my classroom and now they finally will have a home,” she said. “My mom and I did lots of garage sale and thrift store shopping to find dramatic play toys, manipulatives, thinking games and even a Lego table.”
This fall, Kimme begins her teaching career in the kindergarten class at Riverside Elementary School in the D.C. Everest Area School District.
“I can’t wait to get to know all of my kiddos and be able to have a relaxed yet structured atmosphere for them to learn in,” Kimme said. “I can’t wait until the students come to the point where they are able to automatically go through school routines and when I can begin to see their growth socially, emotionally and academically.”
Miles also is looking forward to having his own classroom this fall.
“Student teaching was immensely helpful, but the biggest drawback is that you’re still teaching someone else’s students and you have to respect the relationship that your students have with their regular teacher,” he explained. “Finally, it’s my turn to establish my rapport with my students in the way I want to do it. I can teach the lessons I want to teach and experience the successes (and failures) all on my own.”
For his student-teaching experience, Miles spent three months last spring in New Zealand, where he taught instrumental and classroom music and assisted with choirs. From that experience teaching the native people of New Zealand, the Maori, he learned cultural sensitivity.
He said the biggest challenge for the coming year will be getting used to preparing for and teaching a full schedule of classes. “Now, it is straight into the full load from day one, and there’s no backing down,” he added.
For Kimme, the biggest challenge of teaching in today’s world is the ability to adapt constantly for individual children. She learned a lot in her student-teaching placement in a fifth-grade classroom.
“I had such a fantastic cooperating teacher who showed me what it means to be a great teacher,” Kimme said. “Teachers with her passion, creativity and love of children are what make this career the best. She built my confidence as a teacher and really made an impact on not only my teaching career but also my life.”