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 sisters Megan and Abbi Mullen, who are both pursuing their undergraduate degrees in the Elementary Education and Special Education Dual Major Certification program. Megan is expected to graduate in 2021 and Abbi in 2022.
Megan – I was born and raised on the east side of Madison and knew I wanted to complete my undergraduate degree close to home. I was also drawn to the fact that UW–Madison’s School of Ed continues to be recognized as one of the best schools of education in the country.
Abbi – Attending UW–Madison has always been a goal of mine. My grandfather, father, and my oldest sister are all alumni of the university, and I grew up listening to their fascinating stories and the experiences they had, which inspired me to apply here.
What has been your most meaningful experience at UW–Madison?
Megan – My most meaningful experience was when I was accepted into the Elementary and Special Education Dual Certification program. I was so excited that my hard work paid off, and that I would get to be a part of such a unique program. My field experiences within the program have also been so significant as they’ve given me the opportunity to connect with and learn from many different teachers and students around Madison.
Abbi – I transferred to the university from Madison College in 2019, and when I reflect on my very first semester here versus now my fourth semester in, I have grown and learned so much. The courses I have taken and the professors I have had positively impacted my self-efficacy, and most importantly, encouraged me to critically think, analyze, and understand current or historical issues, events, etc., from views and perspectives other than my own. Because of my experiences here at UW–Madison, I have learned to like challenge, because I know it is what will help me grow as a person, and as an educator.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
Megan – Growing up, my mom held various positions in different schools around Madison, so my sisters and I spent a lot of time in them. On the evenings she had late meetings, we would explore whichever school she was working in at the time. It was always fun learning about the values of each school and meeting the students/staff she worked closely with. My mom is a very talented educator and has always inspired me to become one myself. Additionally, I’ve worked for Madison School and Community Recreation (MSCR) in an elementary school after-school program for almost six years. This job has given me countless opportunities to work with K-5 students to help them learn and grow. I absolutely fell in love with everything about the job, and it made me realize just how passionate I am about education. My students, co-workers, and other staff members at the school also led me to seek a career in teaching.
Abbi – My mother, no doubt. My mom has been a teacher for 32 years, with 30 of those being in the Madison Metropolitan School District. Growing up, my mother would always take my sisters and I along to her school’s open house, family events, PTA meetings, etc. It was during those times where I frequently observed how joyous various families and students were when they saw or spoke to my mother. Kids would always run up and hug her with the biggest smiles on their faces, and that’s when I realized that I wanted to make students feel that way too. I have always admired my mother’s work ethic and the way she ensures every student feels cared for. Now an assistant principal for an MMSD elementary school, my mother spent the last three weeks before their winter break driving all around Madison delivering virtual learning materials to students. It is actions like those that make me so proud to be her daughter, and even more grateful that I get to learn from such an inspiring educator.
"I aim to be an educator that breaks from the norms of teaching and instead works to uplift student voices, backgrounds, and perspectives. I want students to feel excited to come to school and learn about topics that are relevant to their lives, communities, and current events." — Abbi Mullen
What was your reaction when you learned about the Teacher Pledge?
Megan – I was thrilled and jumped on the opportunity to take the Teacher Pledge. I thought it was a fantastic idea for pre-service teachers like me.
Abbi – My reaction was just a sigh of relief. I had been stressed out all summer about how I was going to pay for the upcoming school year, so when the university introduced the Teacher Pledge, I just felt so happy and grateful that they were able to establish such a great program that eased financial worries for so many students.
How is the Teacher Pledge making it easier for you to pursue your goal of becoming a teacher?
Megan – The Teacher Pledge has allowed me to fully focus on my academic responsibilities and my growth as an educator. There was a considerable difference in my performance fall semester, and I have the Teacher Pledge to thank for that.
Abbi – Because I am no longer stressing about how I am going to pay for my tuition … I can put more of my time and effort into my schoolwork and bettering myself.
How do you hope to make a difference as an educator in Wisconsin?
Megan – I hope to make a difference by being an educator that creates a safe and welcoming environment for every single student. I also hope to make a difference by continuing to dive into the work that surrounds antiracism as well as cultural competency. My main goal is for every student in my classroom to feel that they are seen, heard, and that they matter, because I know there are so many students out there who struggle to feel that way.
Abbi – I aim to be an educator that breaks from the norms of teaching and instead works to uplift student voices, backgrounds, and perspectives. I want students to feel excited to come to school and learn about topics that are relevant to their lives, communities, and current events. Most importantly, I hope to make a difference by making sure my students know I care about them for who they are as a human being first, not as a student.
"My dream is to secure a job at the elementary school I've been working at all these years. I think it would be so cool for me to come full circle for the students who have been on this journey of becoming an educator with me." — Megan Mullen
What are your future plans?
Megan – In the coming months, I plan to begin applying for teaching jobs in and around Madison. My dream is to secure a job at the elementary school I’ve been working at all these years. I think it would be so cool for me to come full circle for the students who have been on this journey of becoming an educator with me.
Abbi – After I graduate in the spring of 2022, I plan on teaching first or second grade in either the Madison or Milwaukee Public Schools. I eventually will return to school for a master’s in either educational policy studies or social work. Once I am done with school, my ultimate goal is to move to the Washington, D.C., area and continue educating there.
What’s it like having a sister with similar career aspirations?
Megan – It’s been really fun having a sister with similar career aspirations. We constantly are discussing changes that need to be made to education to reflect the needs of all students. We read over each other’s work and bounce ideas off of one another when completing assignments. (Since I am one year ahead in the program), I’m also able to help prepare her for what’s to come … and let’s just say she hit the jackpot when it comes to not having to buy textbooks!
Abbi – It is so cool! I am very lucky to have a sister who has similar career aspirations. If I need help on an assignment she is able support me and understand it, because she had to go through the same courses. Also, if I just want to talk about a topic or issue, we covered in one of my classes, we are able to have an insightful conversation because she is well informed on the topics herself. When either one of us are stuck on or stressed out about an assignment, we talk it through with one another and provide feedback.