Returning home to teach science: Q&A with Teacher Pledge alum Abigail Laumer

The UW–Madison School of Education Wisconsin Teacher Pledge is dedicated to strengthening and diversifying Wisconsin’s teacher workforce. It pays the equivalent of in-state tuition and fees, testing, and licensing costs for all teacher education students who “pledge” to teach for three or four years at a pre-kindergarten through 12th grade school in Wisconsin after they graduate.

To date, 556 students have taken the Teacher Pledge — and 226 Pledge alumni are already in classrooms and teaching in 65 school districts across Wisconsin.

To learn just a bit more about the Teacher Pledge and its impact, the School of Education’s communications team reached out to Pledge alumni to get their thoughts.

Abigail Laumer graduation photo

Abigail Laumer completed her MS in curriculum and instruction with the School of Education in August 2022, leading to a secondary science teaching certification. Today, Laumer teaches four classes of freshman biology and an environmental science class to upperclassmen at Appleton East High School, where she once was a student herself.

What inspired you to become a science teacher? Growing up, I always loved science and found it super interesting. I find science to be a really good mix of structure and creativity, which fits well with the way that I think and operate. I had a lot of different science teachers growing up that I really enjoyed and looked up to. They played a big role in inspiring me to become a science teacher as well. Now that I work at the school where I went to high school, it has been a really cool experience for me to be able to work with many of the teachers who inspired me to want to become a teacher. My favorite science teacher from high school is now my mentor, which has been great. 

What was your undergraduate degree in — and did you consider other professions outside of teaching? My undergraduate degree is in genetics and genomics from UW–Madison. Going into college, I thought that I wanted to be a genetic counselor. After doing some job shadowing my freshman year, I realized that the aspect of genetic counseling that I enjoyed the most was sitting down and teaching people about genetics and what is going on scientifically to cause what they are experiencing. I did a lot of self reflection at that point and realized that teaching would be a better fit for me. It is something that I always had considered, but I felt external pressure to pursue other careers. Once I made the decision to pursue secondary science education, I worked to complete my undergraduate degree at UW–Madison in three years and then headed straight into the master’s program the June after I graduated. 

What do you enjoy most about being a teacher? One of my favorite parts of teaching is getting to know my students and what they are excited to learn about. The environmental science class that I teach does not have a set curriculum that I am required to teach, so it has been really fun to work alongside my students to determine what we want to explore and cover together. 

What role did the Teacher Pledge play in your decision to come to UW–Madison? UW–Madison was my first choice for graduate programs before I heard about the Teacher Pledge, but once I learned about the Pledge it made my decision even easier.

How has the Teacher Pledge made it easier for you to pursue your goal of becoming a teacher? The Teacher Pledge allowed me to fully immerse myself into the program and student teaching experiences, because I did not have to work another job while completing my master’s. The program itself is very demanding, so having a lot of the financial stress taken off thanks to the Teacher Pledge allowed me to get the most possible out of the program, while also maintaining a healthy balance in my life and having time to enjoy my last year in Madison. I am super grateful for this!

How are things going in the classroom? Do you feel like you are making a difference? Things have been going really well so far. Whenever anyone asks how my first year has been I always say, “Nothing unexpected has happened and I think that’s about all you can hope for.” I attribute this to how well the program at UW–Madison and my student teaching experiences prepared me. There are many challenging aspects to teaching in the classroom every day but knowing this going in I haven’t felt blindsided by anything. I really can’t see myself doing anything else or teaching anywhere else, so I am really happy with where I am at.

Supported completely by generous donors to our School of Education, the Teacher Pledge won’t solve the teacher shortage by itself — but enrollment numbers are showing it is helping incentivize students to enter our teacher education programs. Will it continue to show promise? University researchers are studying this pilot of the Teacher Pledge to find out, and the School will share key findings that could help aid efforts around Wisconsin and across the nation in building a stronger teacher workforce.

Learn more about the UW–Madison School of Education Wisconsin Teacher Pledge.

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