We are reaching out to students who are utilizing the UW–Madison School of Education Wisconsin Teacher Pledge program to pursue their goal of becoming an educator. Following is a Q&A with Mason Gauthier, who is an undergraduate student majoring in Spanish education.
Where are you from, and what brought you to UW–Madison?
I am originally from Neenah, a town in northeast Wisconsin famed for being the birthplace of Kleenex and home to an acclaimed manhole cover industry. I came to UW–Madison because it had been my top choice for as long as I can remember and it had everything I’d been looking for. I wanted to go to a big school where I would have as many opportunities as possible to grow as a learner and explore a huge array of academic interests, but also where I could branch out socially and meet lots of new people. For me, UW is really the whole package, so it’s always been a no-brainer that I wanted to end up here.
What has been your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison?
I think one of my most meaningful experiences at UW–Madison was when I attended my first Badger football game, and this is coming from someone who can probably count on one hand the times I’d even thought about football (period) prior. Notwithstanding, there is certainly something special about being a UW freshman and standing in Camp Randall for the first time, surrounded by thousands of other students in red and white, that instills a profound sense of community and pride which is hard to put into words.
What class or professor has had the greatest impact on you, and why?
This past fall I had the opportunity to take French 271: Introduction to Literary Analysis, with Dr. Nevine El-Nossery, and I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that I felt like I was completely relearning how to read! I had never been pushed so hard in a class to engage so critically with material from so many angles. The class changed a lot about not only how I read, but why I read and what I do with information; when you learn how to really dive in and pick apart a poem or a play or any other piece of writing, to literally “read between the lines,” you learn to better analyze and appreciate the world around you in entirely new ways. This is all, of course, in addition to how drastically my French improved over the semester. I think Dr. El-Nossery is a prime example of an educator that uses her course’s target language as a vehicle to teach so many other important skills, and so I found myself deeply impacted as a student and profoundly inspired as a future language teacher by her and this class.
"The Teacher Pledge has taken a huge weight off my shoulders! It has allowed me to focus so much more on what’s really important to me right now, which is growing into the best Spanish teacher I can possibly be."
What inspired you to become a teacher?
My teachers! I am very lucky to have attended a high school that had so many teachers who went above and beyond for their students, so I repeatedly saw first-hand the impact a committed teacher could have on students in and out of the classroom. My friend’s mom, a lifelong teacher, once pointed out to me that all people need connection, independence, mastery, and generosity; I hope that as an educator I can help students cultivate these traits and help steer them in the direction of personal success, like many of my own teachers did for me.
How did you hear about the Teacher Pledge, and what was your reaction?
I believe I heard about the Teacher Pledge through an email … and I was excited! It’s an amazing opportunity, and I am once again thanking myself for choosing UW — a school that values giving back to students and the state that for my whole life I’ve called home.
How is the Teacher Pledge making it easier for you to pursue your goal of becoming a teacher?
It goes without saying that paying for school is no easy feat, so the Teacher Pledge has taken a huge weight off my shoulders! It has allowed me to focus so much more on what’s really important to me right now, which is growing into the best Spanish teacher I can possibly be.
How do you hope to make a difference as an educator in Wisconsin?
I want kids to be able to interact with and learn from the world around them, and I think curiosity is a skill that a language teacher is particularly suited to help cultivate. It is one of my most deeply held beliefs that life passes by way of ideas, and ideas are transmitted through language. With this in mind, I hope that as a teacher I can help students discover new ideas about how the world works, and then be able to interact with these by articulating new ideas of their own, all through the lens of a new language. Personally, my middle school Spanish class was one of the first places where it really clicked for me that the world is, in fact, a much bigger place than my 12-year-old self had ever experienced in the bubble of Winnebago County. As a future Wisconsin teacher, I hope that I can guide students to similar “ah-ha!” moments.