For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be a teacher – It is what I was destined to do. A major in Elementary Education in the College of Education was a natural fit. Then, in my Sophomore year when I had some openings in my schedule, I considered ways to add to the experiences I was gaining in my major. I first added a minor in Social Work, which seemed like it would be very helpful in a school setting. Later, I pursued my English as a Second Language (ESL) endorsement because more senior students in the College of Education suggested it could open additional opportunities in the future – (more on that later!).

Some of my best experiences at Illinois came from hands-on courses and learning experiences offered through my major coursework, as well as the relationships built with classmates along the way. For example, throughout our senior year, our program was delivered in a cohort model. There were 25 of us taking all the same classes together. We became very close.

This was particularly important as we began to engage in our student teaching experiences. We were spread out across schools – and the state – but we kept in touch through text and Snapchat group chats. We shared funny stories about our teaching experiences, and asked questions or sought advice when we were stressed. When we came back to Illinois classrooms, we were able to talk through things that were happening and strategize next steps. This way we had a balance of gaining individual experiences and learning together through it. Also, our instructors brought so much real world knowledge from their teaching experiences to our discussions. The learning environment at Illinois was so supportive and enriching.

Now I am a First Grade Teacher at the McArthur International Spanish Academy. It has been an awesome experience because it is a dual-language school – so my ESL endorsement is really paying off! I am learning so much teaching first grade. I have two different groups of kids – one in the morning, and one in the afternoon. The two classes are so different, and I adjust my teaching strategies for each. Just because an approach works well for the morning group, doesn’t mean that I can do it the same way in the afternoon. It’s really opened my eyes to the need to be flexible. I feel like that’s preparing me for my second year of teaching when I encounter another new group of students with new needs. It’s constantly changing, and, to me, that is the best part about being a teacher. It’s not going to be the same thing every single day. It will always be a fresh start. I can constantly learn and grow, getting better and knowing more.

I’d like to let current Illinois students know that things are not always as scary or stressful as they seem in the moment. You are not alone. I encourage you to reach out to others in your major who are experiencing similar situations so that you have someone to talk to. Chances are, they need someone to talk to too.