Mai Ya Her is a senior from Madison enrolled in the UW–Madison School of Education’s Elementary Education Program. We asked her about her journey to becoming a teacher.
I will be graduating with a Middle Childhood-Early Adolescent and English as a Second Language certification this spring. I chose the Elementary Education Program because I aspire to be a teacher, and I wanted to challenge myself to grow as an individual and as a future educator. I specifically chose the focus of ESL, because I want to help students who speak more than one language have more meaningful learning experiences in school. All of these reasons pushed me towards UW’s Elementary Education Program.
Why did you choose to become a teacher? What does being a teacher mean to you?
A lot of my past teachers played such a huge role in helping me become the person that I am today. I am the oldest of 6 siblings, and am very close to my family. I speak two languages, English and Hmong. My teachers valued who I was as a person and a learner, and through their influences and passion for teaching students of color, I have been inspired to do the same. I also love working with children and want to be able to create a classroom environment where they truly enjoy learning and are constantly challenging their thinking.
To me, being a teacher means being passionate about working with children from different backgrounds and willing to go out of one’s way to ensure that students feel safe, valued, and included in the classroom. It means viewing each student as intelligent and capable, and challenging them to their fullest potential. Being a teacher also means valuing, supporting, and working together with families and guardians, school staff, and the community to give our students school experiences that are meaningful to them and the world around them.
What classes are you currently taking? What are your favorite classes?
Many of the classes that I have taken for my major have been very informative and have challenged me to think critically about my teaching practices and philosophy. I have loved all of my classes, and my professors and instructors. A class that I really enjoyed was C&I 318 Teaching Reading and Writing. I loved the assignments, and although they were similar to ones we did in C&I 317, doing them again helped me to see my growth throughout the program and how my thinking has changed. I also found many of the readings to be helpful in preparing for the WFoRT (Wisconsin Foundations of Reading Test).
"To me, being a teacher means being passionate about working with children from different backgrounds and willing to go out of one’s way to ensure that students feel safe, valued, and included in the classroom. It means viewing each student as intelligent and capable, and challenging them to their fullest potential."
Are you part of any student organizations? Which ones?
During my sophomore year, I became involved in Diverse Leaders In Education (DLE). At the time, DLE was a new student org on campus, seeking to provide a space where teachers of color could network and find support. I met so many wonderful people and am so glad that I was a part of the start of that journey. The space is one that many students like me really need.
Have you participated in any research or community service? What did you participate in, and could you talk a bit more about those experiences?
Thanks to a connection with my first grade teacher, I volunteered with Schools of Hope, a program that connects volunteers with schools all over Madison. As a freshman and sophomore, I returned to my elementary school to tutor children in reading. This provided a nice opportunity to think about becoming a teacher. Although it is mainly tutoring, this kind of experience allows one to stop and think about whether the field of education will be a good fit for them or not.
Would you recommend the Elementary Education Program to others? What would you tell students who are considering becoming a teacher?
I would definitely recommend this program for anyone who is aspiring to be a teacher. UW–Madison is a great place to start this journey. There are many different teacher education programs that students can choose from — your School of Education student services advisor will help you find the one that’s right for you.
I would tell (students who are considering becoming a teacher) to accept the challenge. It’s really important to keep in mind that this profession is hard work and there will be many challenges as an educator, but we teach for a reason, including inspiring young kids to change this broken world. Children deserve good teachers who care deeply about their education. I would encourage those who want to enter the field of education to not be afraid to be who you are and to do what you are passionate about: teaching!
What do you like about the UW–Madison School of Education? Why should someone come here?
The School of Education has so many excellent resources and opportunities for students. Before I applied, I was set up with an advisor who was so helpful in guiding me in finding what I wanted to do. The advisors and professors and supervisors have been so supportive and always know which direction to point to in times of hardship.
You should pick UW–Madison’s School of Education because the program provides you with so many opportunities and resources to better yourself as an educator.