By Kristine “Aster” Medina, Editor-in-Chief
As collegiate sisters start classes for fall semester, we also have alumnae who go back to school at the head of their classes to educate a group of individuals. For this Sister Spotlight series, we feature sisters who teach as a profession.
We first spotlight Jenna “Eviana” Bradshaw, a Grand Valley State University alumna, who recently moved to Washington D.C. to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) to adults at Briya Public Charter School. We asked her about the experience so far, and she shared her stories and advice.
What do you teach?
I teach ESL to adult learners in a digital literacy context. Basically, that means I am expanding my students’ knowledge of technology, how to use it in their everyday lives, and how to use it to enhance their understanding of English. I teach for Briya Public Charter School, which follows a ‘family literacy’ model, where students participate in Parent And Child Together (PACT) classes. This model educates students on the importance their role as a parent has on their child(ren)’s development. We also have free daycare for our students’ children ranging from infant to pre-K. The students attend school for free.
What does a typical day look like for you during the school year?
As an adult education teacher, my class time is limited. I currently teach two classes and assist in five others (I have to travel between two school sites). Each day looks very different.
Teaching days: I arrive about an hour before classes start, go over my lessons for the day, make sure I have all of the necessary worksheets, handouts, etc.. In our particular school, our students have class for half a day (9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.). Their digital literacy class takes up about an hour of that time.
Assisting days: I arrive about an hour before the first class and go over the lesson plan that the lead teacher has prepared. I assist in 5 different classes in one day (classes are back-to-back, aside from a lunch break).
When did you know you wanted to go into teaching?
I was definitely one of those freshmen who thought they knew exactly what they wanted to pursue in college but … life threw me a curveball. It was during my junior year. I took a class that dealt with ESL Learners and their education. I had no idea that basic adult education or adult ESL education existed so I got really interested in the idea of weaving culture and all of this experience into someone’s education. I continued to take more of these teaching ESL courses and eventually did a practicum course that required me to go out and become an ESL tutor.
The program I interned with allowed me to create my own curriculum and I was able to extend it over the entire academic year. This practicum class really solidified my decision to change my major and pursue a career in ESL education for adults.
Tell us a memorable story about working with your students.
During the first semester of my teaching internship, I had a class of five students, and only one student showed up consistently, which is fairly typical of adult education classes. These students are very busy with work, their families, etc.. This one particular student rarely missed class so I got to know her pretty well. I knew she had many goals for herself as a student, and she worked very hard to meet them. One day, she turned a writing assignment in, and when I read it, I got chills. She wrote about her journey to the U.S., how dangerous it was and the different horrors she experienced and witnessed. She was only 16 years old when she made her way to this country. I will never forget her story, her perseverance and how determined she was to make a better life for herself. I learned about many of these cases in my classes, but to know someone who had experienced it, to be a face to it, it changed me as a teacher.
What advice would you tell sisters going into education?
Talk to people who are in the program. This can be advisers, professors, current students, etc.. They will give you different insights on the ups and downs. Education is tough. If you have a chance to take a practicum class, observe a class, or become a tutor early on in your decision to pursue teaching, DO IT! You can teach so many different things! Don’t limit yourself to just the “core” classes. Look up different career paths online, talk to the education program director, talk to your favorite elementary, middle school, and/or high school teachers.
Finally, ask yourself, “Why do I want to become a teacher?” or “Why do I want to pursue a career in education?” You don’t need to know 100 percent right away, but start talking to people who can help you discover the answer.
And advice to sisters going back to school this month?
Keep your head up and self-care is so important! College is no joke. Not only are you pursuing a college degree, you have social lives, and you are a part of a wonderful organization that does take up a lot of your time. If you feel yourself getting worn out or you’re being stretched too thin, take a beat, learn to say no to some low priority tasks, reach out to your sisters for support and take care of yourself.
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Article Image: Special to The Jade Times