For future educators, student-teaching before graduation is hardly a new idea. But for undergraduates at UMaine, it’s anything but the same-old, same-old.
At UMaine, in-state placements are as varied as Maine itself, while a growing number of students are taking part in international internship opportunities that make the world their classroom.
“Our goal is to provide students with as many varied experiences as possible to prepare them for the diverse populations of students they will encounter in their teaching careers, whether it be in rural towns in Maine or in urban settings such as Boston, Mass.,” says Pam Kimball, field experience and certification program director at UMaine. “We have placed students in schools as northern and rural as Fort Kent, Maine; in more suburban settings such as Portland, Maine; and in international settings in New Zealand and Australia. As a former principal, I always valued those teacher applicants who had varied teaching experiences. They brought another dimension to the classroom and the school community.”
A recent partnership with AustraLearn, a nonprofit that offers a 10-week student-teaching program in Australia or New Zealand, was a huge draw for Megan Nichols, a Secondary Education major and History minor from Wiscasset, Maine.
“I’ve always wanted to study abroad and I think it’s even better that I’m student-teaching abroad rather than just taking classes,” says Nichols, who spent part of the spring 2011 semester in New Zealand after completing a student-teaching stint in Brunswick, Maine, Junior High School.
Zachary Thibodeau, a Secondary Education and History double-major from Rumford, Maine, has independently pursued an internship at a Department of Defense school in Italy. Working with UMaine study abroad adviser Orlina Boteva and an adviser at the University of Minnesota-Morris who specializes in student-teaching at such schools, he secured an internship at the International School in Genoa for the spring 2011 semester.
“I’m from a small, rural town in Maine, and for me, Boston was the big city. I’ve never had the opportunity to experience the world on an international level,” says Thibodeau, a senior who hopes to teach in an urban setting after graduation. “I want to teach social studies, and until you’ve experienced something like this, you’re just talking about it. I was abroad teaching world history right next to where everything happened, and that experience will be huge for me.”
Meagan Davidson is on the other end of the spectrum. A senior Elementary Education major from Vinalhaven, Maine, Davidson plans to return to her hometown after graduation, which is why she pursued a placement there. As an island native, she found the idea of teaching in a small, remote school tremendously appealing.
“The class sizes are tiny, but you know everyone. You become part of the community very quickly, and they take you in as one of your own,” says Davidson, whose school shut down early during Maine’s high school basketball tournament so the whole town could support the team. “You can see the community within the classroom.”
She previously had a student-teaching experience in Hampden, Maine, in one of five second-grade classrooms. On Vinalhaven, she team-taught second grade with one other teacher.
“That’s something I’d never seen before — we get together and talk about the curriculum,” says Davidson, who was one of two UMaine student-teachers on Vinalhaven for the spring semester. “It’s a unique experience. We are seeing so much. We’re able not to see more, per se, but we have these really good opportunities.”
Image Description: Student Teaching