Throughout my entire life education has been one of my main priorities. A significant amount of my family are educators and they have taught me from a young age how important education is. My Mom, an Occupational Therapist for the Saginaw Intermediate School District, spent tireless hours pounding the importance of reading to me and my brother and sister. This paid off as school has come naturally to me for the majority of my life. I attended St. Charles Community Schools all the way from elementary school through high school. My senior year I had the privilege of dual-enrolling where I shared time between St. Charles High and Delta Community College. I currently attend Central Michigan University where I am pursuing a degree in Secondary Education as a Mathematics major with a double minor in Leadership and Physical Education.
I had a lot of trouble deciding where I wanted to attend college. After applying and visiting seven different colleges: Ohio State, Michigan State, Saginaw Valley State, Grand Valley State, Aquinas, Eastern Michigan, and Central Michigan. I eventually chose Central due to the welcoming atmosphere. This became noticeable especially after competing and being accepted into the LAS (Leadership Advancement Scholarship) program. After being accepted to LAS I knew that Central was where I belonged and I haven’t doubted it since.
My education began in St. Charles, Michigan at Patterson Elementary School-a small public school just minutes away from my house. It was here that my spark for learning first began. I don’t remember much from elementary school, but I do remember each one of my teachers and how they impacted me. It was here, in
elementary school, that I first realized the impact a teacher has. I learned that the way the teacher presents the information has an immeasurable impact on the student’s abilities to retain the information. The best example of this was in my fifth grade class. We switched teachers for one class period to prepare us for middle school. The class we switched was Science and it was one of the first classes I struggled with. The class periods weren’t captivating and often consisted of lectures and videos. It was tough to stay focused in the class so I often found myself disengaged. This resulted in me talking to others and even being disruptive frequently. I learned the importance of keeping the class involved and presenting the information in a way that keeps the class engaged.
After my time at Patterson Elementary I moved next door to Anna M. Thurston Middle School. This is when factors outside of academics really started having an impact. School continued to come naturally to me so it was rarely my main focus. As a result things like sports and friends began to absorb a majority of my attention and became my main priority. In fact, I remember very little about my classes. I still know many of my teachers from middle school but I don’t remember how they conducted class or what happened in these classes.
The next stop was attending St. Charles High School. I enjoyed high school due in large part to sports. I was on the football, baseball, and basketball teams all four years. I was also involved in many other extracurricular activities so academics weren’t always my focus. However, from early on in high school I had high hopes when it came to scholarships. As a result academics were still very important to me. I finished high school as the Salutatorian of my class but it wasn’t until later in my academic career that I focused on learning rather than just the grades.
During high school I experienced a wide variation of classroom settings. During these four years I experienced some of the best classroom experiences and teachers of my career, as well as some of the worst. During my freshman year I had my least favorite teacher. He was my freshman Health and Physical Education teacher and I feel as though he was more concerned with his reputation and how he looked rather than the quality of our education. The lectures were often off topic and charged with his personal opinions rather than useful information. I don’t remember learning much in his class but I do remember feeling as though my time was being wasted. Ironically, it was the bad classes, similar to this one, that motivate me to be a teacher the most. I believe every student deserves to be put in a situation to succeed. Seeing teachers fail to do this motivates me to be the change I want to see. Despite this class I had an enjoyable freshman year that set a good foundation for my high school career.
My sophomore year was more or less of the same as my freshman except I began to settle in and become more comfortable. It was also when I experienced my best learning experience in school. I took an Entrepreneurship class that soon became one of my all time favorites. We were constantly doing hands-on activities and engaging in discussions about what it means to own your own business. At one point we even ran a business for a day as a project! This class was a classic example of how to keep students engaged and interested. To this day, in large part as a result of that class, I still have dreams of owning my own business.
Then, after Junior year flew by, I had an interesting senior year. My grades and ACT were good enough to allow me to dual-enroll at Delta College part time as well as take two AP classes so academics took on a much bigger role. Here I had my favorite teacher all-time, Mrs. Kohagen. Mrs. Kohagen was my AP English teacher and kept me more engaged in class than I had ever been. Although I didn’t appreciate it at the time, Mrs. Kohagen pushed me more than a teacher ever had before. Her class was difficult and she graded it like a college course, but she was still welcoming and helped me where I struggled. Additionally, plain lectures were rare in her class. We did a lot of group discussions, small projects, and practiced different ways to learn the information and study. The latter of the three is so crucial. If there’s one thing I learned from Mrs. Kohagen’s teaching, it’s to teach the information in a multitude of ways because one way to present the information might work for one student but not the other. So, by using multiple ways to teach, you appeal to all students and don’t leave other students clueless. Additionally, Mrs. Kohagen was the advisor for Student Council, which I was a representative for. Prior to Mrs. Kohagen Student Council’s role had been pretty small. This changed significantly when she took over. She showed to me, through her actions, that if you’re going to do something, or be a part of something, put in your full effort. Student Council soon brightened the school up and made the school a more welcoming environment for everyone thanks to her efforts.
While I was dual-enrolled at Delta I had my worst learning experience ever. At the time I was interested in going into business so I was taking a three-hour business course because it was the only one that could fit into my schedule. The professor was an older man and his way of teaching was to lecture straight from the book. No PowerPoint, no Prezi, no notes, just lecturing straight from the book with the occasional story. What made it even worse was that the exams were in groups, written, and we could have an unlimited amount of notecards. As a result, each group member took notes on a small section of the book and brought those notecards on exam day. I learned very little from this course as far as business information but I learned a ton about teaching. I learned the importance of keeping the class involved by mixing up how you present the information. Additionally, and maybe most importantly, I learned that no matter how bad you want your students to succeed (which this professor clearly did) you can’t make the class too easy or no one benefits.
If there’s one thing I want to take to my classroom from all of my time in school, its that a class is only as good as its teacher. What I mean by this is that what the students get from the class results directly from the quality and effort of their teacher. If a teacher comes in everyday with a positive attitude and engaging lessons, then students will take much more from that class than from a similar class with a teacher that gives them a short lecture and a homework assignment. Students don’t
all learn the same way and it is the teacher’s responsibility to adhere to each student’s needs. Teaching is like being a quarterback. The entire offense, classroom, revolves around you, and it’s your responsibility to put your wide receivers, students, in a position to succeed. The most important part is to put the pass, lesson, where they can catch it. You have to throw it, or teach, in a spot where they can catch it, or understand it. The tricky part is to make the pass through all the defenders, or distractions, so that the receiver can get the most they can out of it.
Overall, I enjoyed my time at St. Charles. I was blessed with some great teachers that genuinely cared about me and my education. I learned a ton from my teachers, not just about the subject, but about what to do and what not to do when it comes to teaching. Thank you for taking the time to read my Educational Autobiography. I hope you enjoyed it!