Isabelle Carter ’20 will undoubtedly transform the lives of students, for years to come. As one of our honored Double Warriors, Isabelle’s master’s in curriculum and instruction has helped her further develop her teaching skills. A former RA, and former president of the Merrimack Figure Skating Team, her leadership has extended throughout and beyond campus. Now, as a long term substitute teacher at Pentucket Regional High School, Isabelle is finding her groove. She joins us today to discuss industry growth for educators, her career development, and her path to the M.Ed.
DAN ROUSSEL: Hi Isabelle! You started teaching last August at Pentucket Regional High School—that’s a wild way to enter the profession, mid-pandemic! How have you been able to personalize your classroom? And how have the students been?
ISABELLE CARTER: Hi! It definitely was a whirlwind of a start to a teaching career. I wasn’t able to start personalizing my classroom until about two or three months into the start of teaching, because I didn’t have any previous student work to hang up. I tried to personalize the classroom a little bit by having my bulletin boards up; I had one dedicated to “advice to yourself,” where I had the students, when we first met, put together a little blurb of advice that they can give themselves to look back on, as they worked through the year. Each new quarter, I have the students reflect—they can change their piece of advice or keep it. Alongside that, my mom actually gave me a bunch of posters of quotes, as well as literary devices to post around the classroom, which has definitely come in handy! Since day one, the students have been so welcoming. This year is like no other, and with the constant changing schedules due to Covid, the students have taken every change with gusto. Though it can be tricky, they have tried to remain positive in a year of uncertainty. Some of my students have even owned up to the lack of motivation they have had, but continuously try to work at it even though they feel defeated at times.
It sounds like you’ve done a lot to make the classroom your own! And your students seem wonderful. What was most challenging about teaching when you started—and how have you overcome it?
I would say the most challenging part was asking for help if I needed it. I am definitely an independent person, and I will wait until the very last second if I need help. Recently, I have pushed myself to seek guidance and advice from those around me, to help better my teaching skills. These past few months, I have worked on lesson plans and curriculum—at times it definitely felt as if I was alone in the process, mostly of my own doing. I have taken these past few months to reflect, and reach out for resources instead of just doing it all on my own.
That’s a very relatable struggle, and I’m glad you’re working through it. You mentioned feeling alone in the process at times; is the field hopeful for teachers fresh out of college? What advice would you give to other education majors?
I believe it is now, more than ever. The field of education is taking a huge turn with utilizing online tools; coming from a younger generation, this is beneficial to all of us. We grew up in the era of computers, and the advancement of technology. There is also an increase in the need for fresh ideas and having an open mind, which being a younger educator allows us to do. We see the world differently, and it’s definitely something that schools want. My advice to education majors is: when you are applying for teaching jobs, or even during your student teaching experience, allow yourself to be yourself—try that out of the box idea for your lesson, because it might just be the most effective for your students!
Great advice! Out of the box thinking has a place in any industry, and it’s good to hear you’re so optimistic about the field. Out of curiosity, will you be going for a master’s of education down the road? If so, how are you preparing for that?
I actually have been working towards my master’s this past year, and I am excited to announce that I will be graduating with my master’s in curriculum and instruction—with a concentration in ESL—this May! Class of 2021, woohoo! It has been a road unlike any other. Working full time and overloading on classes, I worked twice as long on the weekdays, and utilized every hour I could on Saturday and Sunday to get assignments done. I had the support of my family and my friends, who pushed me when I thought it wasn’t going to be possible. I can honestly say that I would not have done anything differently, and that it is a great feeling to know I’ll have finished my master’s in just one year.
I utilized my graduate advisor to make a realistic plan for myself. I was able to talk through some of the classes, and also the schedule I had, so that I did not feel too overwhelmed—which was extremely helpful. Thanks, Maureen Lee-Locke!
Awesome! Major kudos to Maureen Lee-Locke; a good advisor can make all the difference. Finally, as we wrap up: do you have any shoutouts to make?
Shoutout to my family and friends, who pushed me no matter what. They understand how important this year has been to me, to focus and accomplish all that I have done with working full time and completing my master’s. I appreciate all the people who are in my life, who constantly give me their positivity, and who believe in me!
We love good support systems! Isabelle—thank you so much for joining us today. I’m so happy to see all your success and joy in your work, and good luck with the rest of the school year!
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