Mackenzie Connor: Outstanding Master of Arts in Teaching Student

Mackenzie (Mack) Connor (she/her) of Barnstable, Massachusetts is the 2024 Outstanding Master of Arts in Teaching Student in the University of Maine College of Education and Human Development. Read a Q&A with Connor below.

What difference has UMaine made in your life and in helping you reach your goals?

A photo of Mack Connor.
Photo courtesy Mackenzie Connor.

UMaine has given me the skills and experience to become an educator, and has put me on a path to help me grow into the teacher I feel every student deserves. The community that encompasses the university is made up of many people who believe in us as college students. Being believed in like this has given me the confidence and motivation to continue striving for whatever it is I want to do with my life.

Have you had an experience at UMaine that has changed or shaped the way you see the world? If so, tell us about it.

Throughout my undergraduate career, and for part of my graduate education I worked for Maine Bound Adventure Center, the university’s outdoor education center. It was here that I experienced many different ways of growth through varying outdoor recreational activities such as rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering, paddling and ice climbing. In this program, I was given an outlet that nowhere else I’ve experienced before could provide. It gave me a strong sense of community and allowed unlimited opportunities to learn, grow and share knowledge and experiences with others. It gave not only me but many people who experience Maine Bound a chance to find themselves in a way that is unparalleled by any other.

Have you worked closely with a professor or mentor who made your UMaine experience better? If so, tell us about them.

Danielle Pelletier is my supervisor for my student teaching internship through the MAT program. I would not have had such a positive experience with this pathway if it wasn’t for her. She is the kindest and most inclusive instructor I have had throughout my six years at UMaine. Danielle makes every student feel important, heard and appreciated, while also giving us the autonomy to lean into various facets of our program to grow in whatever ways we feel need strengthening. I also am working closely with my student teaching mentor teacher Elke Blauss, who is a science teacher at Telstar High School. If it wasn’t for her, I would not be able to receive my teaching certification and grow into the type of educator that I feel students deserve. She has been an absolute pleasure to work closely with, and I have learned what being a supportive and equitable teacher is thanks to her.

What advice do you have for incoming graduate students to help them get off to the best start academically?

Form close connections with your instructors and take advantage of their skill set and willingness to help you. Once you move away and/or graduate from the university you don’t have as much access to a diversity of resources. Lean into your internship experiences. These are the times when messing up, making mistakes and learning from your own experiences will help you in future careers. Finally, getting my MAT program fully funded was also a big academic reliever for me, it allowed for less stress financially and the ability to focus more on my classes and internships.

Why UMaine?

I started at UMaine in the fall of 2018 for my undergraduate degree. I wanted to move away from home, but not too far. I wanted to take advantage of outdoor recreation and a school that provided nature-based educational opportunities. UMaine is so central which provides many opportunities to travel and form connections with beautiful areas. In addition, the MAT program seemed like a seamless segue from learning about a subject that I am passionate about (B.S. in environmental science) to then learning how to teach variations of this subject.

Favorite UMaine memory:

I can think of so many! In my undergrad, leading trips and trainings for Maine Bound. In grad school, some of my students in the high school where I did my student teaching started a petition to get me to chaperone their April break trip to Washington, D.C. (which I totally couldn’t do, but the sentiment was so sweet!)

Special Thank You message:

Thank you to my advisor Dr. Rebecca Buchanan for being so responsive and kind, while letting me partake in this program in less-than-traditional sense. Also, thank you to my other mentor teacher Jo Stevens at Old Town High School, who has shared so much advice and role modeling in the realm of science education. Thank you to Erin Straine and Danielle Pelletier for making it work for me to teach at a distance placement away from the university. And another huge thank you to Danielle for getting many MAT students funding for part of their student teaching semester. Finally, I have so much appreciation for all the professors who let me take courses at UMaine without necessarily meeting the prerequisites. I could not have completed my program without this.