From left to right: Dr. Anne Davis, Juanita Burch, Allison Hayes, Bobby Jackson, Amanda Slonaker, Christine Betley, Jessica Biemiller, Minh Pho, and Karen Hecht.

This year marks Stevenson University’s Master of Arts in Teaching’s (MAT) inaugural graduating class. The MAT program was developed by Associate Dean, Anne Davis, D.M., however, she feels the students deserve a lot of credit as well for their efforts in shaping the program. She says, “As the first group of students to experience the MAT program, I like to think of them as ‘co-creators.’ We really valued their input and adjusted the program based on their honest and direct feedback.”

Prior to graduating, the MAT teacher candidates presented their portfolios to fellow students, faculty, staff, and family members as a part of their final projects earlier in May. During the presentations, each of them shared artifacts from their portfolio that illustrated their skills and abilities as a STEM teacher. Additionally, they described the most valuable lessons they learned from the MAT program and how it impacted their teaching philosophy. In attendance was MAT Faculty member, Sharon Bowers who spoke about the caliber of graduates in the 2016 class. She remarks, “This first group of teacher candidates have set the bar high in the level of professionalism they have shown.”

Read below for excerpts from the presentations:

Allison Hayes

Because of Stevenson’s MAT program, I’ve seen project-based and inquiry-based learning work first-hand in my classroom. It truly engages students. They know more than they think they do when it comes time to take tests.

Amanda Slonaker

The mentorship in the classroom within the MAT program really helped me to know where I was struggling and offered me great support. Through my mentorship, there was a great adjustment from my first semester internship to the second and I learned the importance of utilizing classroom management tools. I was lucky to have a mentor show me how I could grow as a teacher.

Christine Betley

I always understood the saying “it takes a village,” but my experience at Stevenson really embodied the meaning of that saying. I’ve learned that being a teacher means asking worthy questions. I now understand my goal as a teacher is to help students to become the best they can be. I am often reminded of a Kahlil Gibran quote, “You may give them your love but not your thoughts, for they have their own thoughts.”

Jessica Biemiller

Through the MAT program, I’ve learned it’s all about the students. As a teacher, I want the students to feel appreciated. I want them to know that I want them to be there and that I’ve noticed their efforts. If a student does excellent work, I hang it up on the wall. My whole room is filled with student work, drawings, and doodles I find to show them I care about them and their progress.

Juanita Burch

I used to think that I didn’t need to go to school to learn how to teach, I could just get a degree in my chosen field and be good to go. The MAT program truly opened my eyes and I understand the value of my master’s. The staff and faculty at Stevenson made my degree possible. For example, there is another new teacher at the school where I work who is stressed and not doing well. I was relating this to my husband and he said, ‘Well, she doesn’t have a Dr. Davis!’

Karen Hecht

Stevenson’s MAT program taught me how to develop student-centered learning. If the students discover the concepts on their own, they will understand it better and the lesson will stick longer.

Minh Pho

I’ve learned there is no one pathway not only in life but in teaching. Allowing the students to create their own criteria and limits of projects empowers them to make discoveries on their own. Additionally, it’s important to understand the big picture. Something could be going on in a student’s life that is preventing them from learning. It’s my job to get them where they want to be, no matter what.

Robert “Bobby” Jackson

Through what I learned in the MAT program, I created a multidisciplinary collaboration between subjects to teach students. The students were reading Homer’s Odyssey in English and they were really fascinated by the idea of Greek Gods and Goddesses. I created an assignment that challenged students to rewrite a myth and incorporate a God or Goddess and science – it was a huge success. The MAT program also taught me the importance of differentiation and meeting the needs of students with vastly different backgrounds.

After the presentations, Anne concluded the event by addressing the teacher candidates with this advice. She notes, “This is an immensely rewarding field. There will be tough days, but when you teach a student, you change a life and that is an awesome privilege.”