Past Alumni Spotlights
The CalTeach Program was attractive to me because it offered an opportunity to obtain my dream career sooner than I previously thought was possible. I hadn’t heard of CalTeach before coming to UCI, so I was anticipating a standard 4-year math major route and then a couple years in a master’s program to become a college-level lecturer. I decided to join CalTeach when I heard that it would allow me to work hard for both a B.A. and a teaching credential at the same time, all the while getting a lot of first-hand experience in classrooms. (I actually did not know that I did not need a teaching credential to be a college lecturer until two years into the program, but by then, CalTeach had helped me find a passion to teach at the K-12 level.)
There is so much I want to say about what CalTeach has done for me. One of the biggest reasons CalTeach is such an awesome program is because of the superb support team that comes with it. There is the pool of fabulous instructors who work directly with us. Never before have I experienced teachers who are as dedicated to making our time in the class safe, fun, meaningful, and fruitful as the CalTeach instructors are. On top of their enthusiasm for everything educational, these instructors are brilliant. They model a plethora of instructional strategies to both teach us and help us become better teachers.
The program advisors are equally stellar. We know exactly what to do and when to do it in order to succeed in both our academics at UCI and our teaching careers, all because of the CalTeach staff. Also, the peers in our cohorts are some of the biggest supports for each other. We go through several CalTeach classes together, which encourages cooperative learning and collaboration, so by the end of the program we are all best friends on top of valuable colleagues.
Although the program is incredible, it also is tough. Our classes are fun, but the workload is not a joke. This does make sense, however, because we are going to be way ahead of the game by earning both our B.A. and our teaching credential together in our undergraduate studies (most of us in just 4 years). The program has assigned readings of articles, books, and blogs, covering pedagogy, adolescent development, cognitive development, social factors influencing academic success, and more. We role play as both students and teachers to develop instructional strategies. We design inquiry-based projects, write lesson plans and essays on theory-based pedagogy, and set peer-edit learning objectives. This is all while spending over 100 hours observing, designing, and implementing lessons in K-12 classrooms before we even begin student teaching. Coming out of this program, there is no doubt about how well prepared we are to succeed in our own classrooms.
CalTeach prepared me so well that, even before graduating, I was offered a job by both of the only two schools where I interviewed. This fall, I will be teaching Geometry and Trigonometry/Statistics at La Quinta High School in the Garden Grove Unified School District (GGUSD). As a CalTeach student I spent almost two years at La Quinta, first observing, and then student teaching, and I cannot imagine working elsewhere. I love the students and am so impressed by and excited to work with the staff at the school. I may soon be taking over the position of advisor for the exceptional school leaders in Girls’ League, and plan to be very involved with the students at the school.
Career-wise, I eventually would like to teach some higher math such as Calculus, and go back to school for a master’s degree (and possibly a Ph.D.) in Education so that I can come back and be an instructor for the CalTeach Program.
“CalTeach also taught me how to be a leader.”
I entered UCI not knowing what I wanted to do with my life. I started out as a biology major with intentions to do something in the medical field; however, I discovered I wasn’t too fond of how competitive the major was or the lack of community available to me. I had been tutoring a friend in math and helping others with webworks (my friend had told me how much she liked my clarity and enthusiasm for math). I really enjoyed math, so I changed my major to math.
In my second quarter at UCI, I enrolled in a CalTeach course, Physical Sciences 5. I had so much fun learning, and for the first time in my college career I felt accepted and found myself growing as a student, a teacher, and a person.
CalTeach changed my thinking. My friends all thought they knew me as someone who does not like little kids. I thought so myself until I did fieldwork in the three CalTeach locations: elementary, middle, and high school. I enjoyed being in these classrooms so much that I often did more hours than I was assigned.
My experiences in CalTeach taught me to be patient and understanding. CalTeach also taught me how to be a leader. I never thought I would care so much about education and the students. As someone who has always been shy and reserved, I surprised myself by standing up for Common Core and for these wonderful students some have dubbed “terrible and immature.” Through my fieldwork and student teaching, I found myself becoming a counselor and a mentor as I realized how much these kids go through while they are trying to find their identity.
Although CalTeach can be physically and mentally exhausting, it is extremely rewarding. Not only did CalTeach shape me into a better person, it also provided me a home. As a commuter, it was hard for me to make friends and even to feel accepted. CalTeach changed all that. CalTeach students and teachers are so supportive, and I made so many friends who shared the same passion and were going through the same struggles I was experiencing. Even those times when I thought about giving up, my CalTeach friends never let me feel alone. We became a family as we struggled with our EdTPAs and vented to each other on our Facebook group chat.
I have learned that forming a close relationship with your colleagues is so important. Clubs, sports, and fraternities have been key features of college for some, but for me, it was the CalTeach program.
“The CalTeach program is committed to the success of each and every one of its students.”
My name is Nicole Gassner and I am very proud to be a part of the CalTeach 2013 cohort. I had always considered being a teacher but attended UCI in 2009 with the intention of pursuing a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences. I was hesitant to join the CalTeach program because the idea of having a daily schedule that involved rowing practice from 5-7am, student teaching right after from 8am-12pm, and then taking my classes, studying, and sometimes working the rest of the day seemed daunting. However, after seeing numerous advertisements for CalTeach and having some extra space in my class schedule late in my sophomore year, I finally decided to try out the first CalTeach class that I had heard so much about. Little did I know, two years after that first CalTeach class I would graduate with my bachelor’s degree, secondary teaching credential, and be employed within 2 months of graduation.
The CalTeach program is committed to the success of each and every one of its students. The staff members of the CalTeach program were very supportive and encouraging as I continued rowing, working, and completing the requirements for my degree and credential. Even after graduating, the faculty still supports its graduates by providing tips, resources, and alumni professional development opportunities. For any current/future students, don’t forget to utilize the CalTeach resources!
I teach both Life Science and Physical Science to 7th and 8th grade students at McFadden Intermediate School in Santa Ana Unified School District. I love being able to teach science and do creative hands-on activities with the students. Seeing the reactions of students when they finally understand something is very rewarding.
In addition to teaching, I also coach the Cross-Country, Track & Field, and Academic Pentathlon teams as well as the Run-Strong running club in which middle school students from around the school district gather to run 5k, 10k, and half-marathon races on weekends. I love doing this because I get to know students outside of the classroom and plus, I get to run with the students while ‘working’! Outside of work, in addition to running, I enjoy hiking, snowboarding, and spending time with friends and family.