Janelle Goff: MAT student impacts school community with ‘A Closet for Change’

Entering college, Janelle Goff wasn’t planning on becoming a teacher. The Smyrna Mills, Maine-native attended Saint Joseph’s College of Maine for exercise science/pre-physical therapy, graduating in May 2021.

Like many college students, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit she attended classes remotely from home. Her mom — a 6th grade math and science teacher at Mill Pond School in nearby Hodgdon — was also adapting to the world of remote learning and teaching. Being around her during that time inspired Goff to want to become a teacher.

“Watching my mom figure out how to teach remotely, how she connected with the students and eased their fears of what was going on in the world, how she supported them at all hours of the day when they needed just to talk or help with assignments, I was in awe of her and decided then that I wanted to switch to teaching,” Goff says.

At the end of her junior year of college, she started looking into how she could earn her teaching certification. That’s how she found the Master of Arts in Teaching program at the University of Maine. The program is designed for people who have a bachelor’s degree in a field other than education, and who want to become secondary education teachers (grades 7-12). Full-time students in the program can earn their master’s degree and become certified to teach in just 15 months.

“It was a perfect fit for me,” says Goff, who plans to graduate this May and become a middle or high school science teacher in Aroostook County.

Like all preservice teachers, MAT students must complete 600 hours of student teaching experience in a school setting prior to earning their degree and being recommended for teacher certification. Goff is currently doing her student teaching at Hodgdon Middle/High School.

All UMaine student teachers have to do a service project during one of their field placements. For her project, Goff decided to create a community closet at her school, where students can go to get donated clothing and personal items.

“As a teacher, you see a lot,” she says. “You see a lot of kids wearing worn-out shoes, shoes that don’t fit, pants that are too big or small, shirts that they have been wearing for four days in a row, and so much more. I wanted to give back to the students and allow them the opportunity to shop for clothes and not have to worry about the price tag.”

In deciding on a name for the space, Goff came up with “A Closet for Change,” which reflects her hope that even a small gesture such as this can have a big impact on her students and school.

“There’s been an outpouring of support,” Goff says. “Teachers and other members of the school community have been donating clothes and personal hygiene items ever since we opened.”

Describe the community closet you created for your service project. What kinds of items are in it? Who uses it and how does it work?

 The community closet is a place where students can go and be provided with clothes and personal items that they may need but may not necessarily be able to get at home. Some items found in the closet are shirts, pants, shorts, shoes, sweatshirts, jackets, hats, mittens, gloves, ties, socks, underwear, prom gowns, and personal hygiene items such as soap, body wash, shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, toothpaste, toothbrushes, and other personal items. It is open to any student from grades 7-12 during the school day. They go to the office secretary and ask to use the closet. She then points them in the right direction!

How did you go about getting the space?

Getting the space was easy. Once I proposed the idea to the assistant principal, she absolutely fell in love with it. Conveniently, we had a staff meeting the same day, so I proposed the idea to the whole staff at the meeting, and everyone loved it!

Tell us about your student teaching experience. How do you feel it has benefited you as you look forward to having a classroom of your own soon?

I have had a wonderful experience at Hodgdon Middle/High School teaching middle school science and English/Language Arts. I have gained invaluable experience with classroom management, lesson planning, and various ways to integrate technology into my science classes. I am energized and ready to have a classroom of my own soon.

What have been some of your favorite classes at UMaine and what made them special?

Some of my favorite classes at UMaine would be EHD 693: Educational Internship and EHD 590: Topics in Education. My internship allowed me to gain hands-on experience while working in a classroom. This was an invaluable experience that allowed me to find my perfect fit. Topics in Education was a class where I learned invaluable classroom management skills and social-emotional learning skills. It is important to have strong classroom management skills because they are truly the backbone of the classroom. Social-emotional learning is also important because having that personal connection with kids helps to make your classroom a safe place where kids can learn and express themselves.

Have you worked closely with any professors or mentors during your time at UMaine? If so, who and how have they helped you grow academically or personally?

Frank Page has been my internship supervisor this semester and he has supported me in every way. Anytime I have a concern or a question he is quick to respond and point me in the right direction.

How would you describe the academic atmosphere at UMaine?

The academic atmosphere at UMaine is something unlike anything else. Although a large school, every professor I have had is committed to my success along with the other students. The faculty in the College of Education and Human Development are there to support you and make sure that you are prepared for a career in education.

What difference has UMaine made in your life?

Although I have only been at UMaine for a year, the university has pushed me to be my very best, both in my personal and professional life. I believe that UMaine has set me up with all the necessary skills to succeed in the education profession.

Describe UMaine in one word.


How has UMaine helped you realize your goals?

UMaine has helped me realize my goal of being a middle school or high school teacher in Aroostook County by placing me with amazing mentors in great school districts. I cannot thank UMaine enough for giving me these amazing opportunities to learn and grow as an educator!

Contact: Casey Kelly, casey.kelly@maine.edu.