Rachel Armock, Language Arts
Position: Language Arts
Employer: Ombudsman Charter East
Teaching Certificate 2010
Degrees: B.A., English 2009
Location: Phoenix, AZ
- School website
What makes your position unique? Did you need any additional training for this position?
I received an Arizona Teaching Certificate for my position. I specialize in working with students who are at risk of dropping out of high school. This includes behavioral issues, students identified as dropouts, students with poor academic standing, students with adult responsibilities and adjudicated youth.
What unique approaches do you have to incorporating technology or other educational resources into the classroom?
When I arrived at Ombudsman in 2011, we had very limited classroom materials, technology and resources. Along with other like-minded faculty members, I helped write and adopt an entirely new language arts curriculum to align to the Common Core state standards, include more culturally relevant and sensitive texts and provide project-based learning opportunities. In the last few years, I pushed to gain one-to-one computing, full Microsoft integration and more streamlined assessments. Last year, I introduced a plan for all staff to become Microsoft Innovative Education Experts (MIEEs) and we became the first Microsoft Showcase School in the Phoenix area with all staff MIEE certified.
What inspired you to pursue a career in education?
During the Teacher Preparation Program, I had an opportunity to intern at a variety of schools prior to my year-long teaching internship. I saw vast differences among the resources, programs and atmosphere in inner-city schools versus the suburban districts. But I also noticed something in common: When a student dropped out, I never saw them again. Did they transfer to another school eventually? Did they drop altogether? Did they have a family or child to care for? The schools I worked in didn't really pay attention to those students after they left, but I wondered...
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2016 there were 2.3 million 16- to 24-year-olds who were not enrolled in high school or had not earned a high school diploma. Despite being one of the most educated countries in the world, students are still slipping through the cracks, and I have dedicated my career to focus on those students who are most at risk.
What advice do you have for Spartans interested in becoming a teacher?
You can know everything there is to know about a subject or topic, plan a perfectly detailed lesson and provide the most welcoming atmosphere for students. But it will not be successful if you don't make a personal connection with each student, strive to understand his or her background and culture and connect education to his or her real world experience. If you build a relationship and trust first, the learning will follow.
Bernard Charles, Social Studies
Why I teach:
Making a difference to the present and future is critical in creating the world that I want to live in. Everyone tries to break the world down into green and white, I am no exception. However, my green and white has nothing to do with dollar signs. It has everything to do with being well-equipped to transform the world in which I exist even after I leave it. The Spartan Green and White is the most valuable to me and I teach because I have been entrusted with empowering the future and I do not take such a responsibility lightly. I teach because education chose [me] and I enjoy it being a part of such an exclusive club of brilliant individuals.
Adam Clements, Fourth Grade
What is one of your favorite teaching moments?
I love getting to bring the 4th graders of Hiawatha Elementary to the MSU Children's Garden each year! They get to learn about plants, our environment and what going GREEN is really all about!
Lisa Drew, Third Grade
Position: Third Grade
Employer: Pine Knob Elementary School
Teaching Certificate 1996
Location: Clarkston, MI
Why do you still connect with MSU today through an intern?
My principal asked me to mentor student teachers from various universities in the area. After years of mentoring a few student teachers, I realized how fortunate I was to have the experiences I did as an undergraduate at Michigan State University, as well as through the yearlong internship. I felt prepared and confident when I entered my own classroom in the fall, and I really wanted to share this unique experience with an intern from MSU. I wanted to continue being a part of the program by giving back. I wanted to inspire future teachers, and I wanted them to feel the same way I did when I entered my first round of interviews: I was prepared, I was ready to make a difference in my own classroom, and I was excited to begin a profession I always felt I was meant to do. Here I am, six years later, mentoring my sixth intern from MSU. (Pictured with Lisa Drew, left, is Spartan intern Brooke Battiata.) I am proud of the young women and men who enter the classroom as eager students and leave as inspired teachers. They are prepared. They are ready to make a difference. They are excited to embark on the most challenging and rewarding profession as an educator.
Devin Evans, Language Arts Instructor
What makes your position unique?
In my role as a tenth grade English language arts instructor and tenth grade team lead, I teach a unique and creative English Language Arts Course titled "Literacy in the Community." This course covers topics that affect Chicago's most oppressed communities and examines literature and supplemental text and other resources that push students to social activism. My school (Butler College Prep High School) has a motto focused on shaping leaders of the future in social justice and the arts. My course, a sophomore course, is designed to train up the next generation fo social jsutice leaders.
I use a teaching style used by Dr. Christopher Edmin called "Pentecostal Pedagogy" where I use strong voice, call and response, storytelling and high-level thinking questions to engage students with the content on a skill-based and emotional level. Students are taken on a journey and adventure through the text we read that will move them to empathy (which is possible, in my view), which is the highest form of teaching language arts literature pedagoge and can move all students to reflection, knowledge and action.
What inspired you to pursue studies in education?
My inspiration comes from the purpose and destiny God has chosen for me to walk down. Since I was a small child, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. From teaching teddy bears ont he steps of my mother's two-family flat growing up, to now having taught five cohorts of students (totalling over 450 students), I knew this was the profession for me. Lastly, this work is for the future. It's for teaching students the human and English language arts skills to create and elevate the human race. For that mission is the highest form of social justice: humanity wins.
Do you have advice for people who want to become teachers?
Be patient in developing your craft. It won't be until your fourth or fifth year before you hit the zone called "mastery." You will get there in patience, and in learning from mistakes each year. So, like all professions, it takes time to build the necessary skills to master the job. Teaching is no different. Don't let the politics, the attacks on teaching, stop you. Work is being done to elevate the profession. If you want to be a part of making history every day, become a teacher.
Learn more about Devin:
- Co-founded The Black Male Educator Alliance of Illinois (Chicago-based professional organization designed to recruit, retain and develop Black male teachers)
- Former Teach Plus Illinois policy fellow
- Frequent blogger, Education Post
Michael Fair, Second Grade
What did you learn about teaching from MSU?
MSU has given me the best experience any university could have given me. My professors, colleagues and mentors have all shaped and molded me into the teacher I always wanted to be. I didn't want to be good or great: I wanted to be SUPER. I took it upon myself to create not only a motto and theme, but an entire classroom culture that encompasses the true meaning of super heroes. Every child needs a super hero to look up to.
Throughout the year, I will guide my second grade students to become their own super heroes and take ownership of their learning and self worth. Having my last name being Fair, I had to get creative with the motto:
Be Super. Be Fair. Be You.
D'Angelo Farmer, Seventh Grade
How did the Urban Educators Cohort Program (UECP) help prepare you to become a teacher?
There are many pathways to become a teacher in our generation. Young minds that attend MSU aren't looking for any alternative path. They have a calling ... a preordained destiny to impact the minds and lives of the future. When my peers and I entered the #1 ranked College of Education at Michigan State University, we knew that our futures would be forever entangled with making an impact in the field of education.
Being a part of the Urban Educators Cohort Program (UECP) at MSU has given us the will to not only teach youth in urban environments, but change the way that youth are taught in urban environments. Many members of UECP realized that once they became teachers, we had a more powerful duty. It's up to us to make education in America more equitable for our students. While maintaining equal learning standards, we fight every day to make our classrooms and our schools equitable learning environments for members of our community. As this has been a calling for us all, the flame was always lit. The work and studies I did at MSU helped me use my voice to keep the flame burning and ignite it for others.
Rachelle Galang, Technology Integration Specialist
How did MSU help you in your career?
Michigan State University helped shape me into the educator I am today. Every Spartan has a saga, and I'm always happy to share mine with anyone who asks. MSU has led me down a path, allowing me to experience incredible places and people. That one-of-a-kind learning journey has left me with many stories to tell—and many more to come.
What do you do in your role as a technology integration specialist in Oakland Schools?
My role is to support educators with using technology in teaching and learning. I work with them to leverage technology in an intentional, purposeful and meaningful way that supports K-12 curricular learning. With that being said, that covers a variety of topics, subjects and technologies. I also work in partnership with West Bloomfield School District.
Learn more about Rachelle:
- Spartan Marching Band alumna
- Raspberry Pi Certified Educator
- Google Certified Educator
- Apple Teacher (2016)
Elizabeth Gutowski, First Grade
Position: First Grade
Employer: Vienna Elementary School
Teaching Certificate 2013
Degrees: B.A., Elementary Education 2012 and M.A, Teaching & Curriculum 2016
Location: Vienna, VA
- M.A. in Teaching & Curriculum
What are your goals as a teacher?
One of my goals is to help children learn to self-regulate. As a first grade teacher, I see many students with a wide variety of emotions, big reactions to emotions, and sometimes, an inability to identify or manage them. I try to teach students how to notice their emotions and independently take action to manage tough ones. We spend time talking about what being sad, angry or frustrated feels like. Then, I teach students strategies they can use almost anywhere or anytime to calm down. We practice things like taking a break, taking deep breaths, rubbing their arms and legs or practicing a quick yoga pose or stretch. There is also a break area in my room where students can go to self-regulate. This little place in my classroom is a safe place to have any emotion, and it helps children learn to identify emotions and recover from them. At MSU, I had the opportunity to work in Dr. Claire Vallotton’s Insights Into Infants’ Internal Worlds Lab in the Department of Human Development & Family Studies and during this experience, I learned how very, very young children can begin to self-regulate, particularly through hand gestures and baby signs. As I began teaching and saw many students having difficulty coping with strong emotions, I thought that if infants and toddlers can use strategies to self-regulate, surely I can teach first graders some strategies too!
Another one of my goals is to give back to the teaching profession through mentoring beginning teachers. I am the Lead Mentor at my school and I work to support novice teachers as they begin their careers and also to support mentors of novice teachers in providing support to new teachers. At MSU, I learned the importance of collaboration and about the responsibility of educators to support each other and the teaching profession.
Ben Hartnell, History
Ohio teacher Ben Hartnell is serious about helping students learn the facts about historical events—and have fun while doing it. He wears a costume almost every day, stages elaborate re-enactments and, in 2016, literally ran for president as a write-in candidate. The goal? To show students that everyone, not just the major political parties, can make an impact.
What advice do you have for teachers?
I try to show my students that everything is a very powerful story, and that their story in high school creates one big fabric that is the American story.
Teachers need to be seen. By this, I don't mean you have to go full-feathered boa like I do; rather, you need to be seen outside the classroom. Because I attend all sorts of school functions, students often ask me to help promote their events. I'm always happy to oblige because it shows them I'm interested in what they like to do and can use my position as a fairly 'over-the-top' teacher to ramp up support. From spirit weeks to anything that promotes the school, I do my best to support my students.
Learn more about Ben:
- Master Teacher, Ohio Department of Education (2013)
- Distinguished Secondary Teacher Award, Northwestern University (2016)
Teryn Henderson, Spanish
Why did you become a teacher?
I became a teacher because the teachers I had in my schooling experience were some of the biggest influences on my life in so many ways. I remember being a student and working in certain classes and thought about how this made me think about the world outside the four walls of the classroom. When I realized that, I thought about how cool it would be to do the same for other students in the future.
How do teachers make a difference in the lives of others?
I believe that MSU teachers make a difference in the lives of others by going into classrooms all around the world, knowing that we have been well-prepared to not only guide student learning, but also recognize how much we as teachers can learn from our students.
We make a difference by valuing students for who they are, not what they know.
We recognize that even as young teachers, like myself, the classroom and the world are different from when we were sitting in these seats and know that now, more than ever, we have the responsibility to educate students beyond the content. We need to take our content and disciplines and help students see where our content takes place in the real world.
Danielle Hook, Learning & Development Specialist
Position: Learning & Development Specialist
Employer: MSU Infrastructure and Planning Facilities
Teacher Certification 2013
Degrees: M.A., Higher, Adult and Lifelong Education 2017, Certificate in Teaching and Learning in Postsecondary Education
Location: East Lansing, MI
What makes your position unique?
In my role, I get to apply theories of learning and different teaching techniques to the development of individuals, teams and the organization. I work at the intersection of business and education. To help the organization reach our strategic goals and develop a workforze that is best suited to serve the needs of the university, I lead the design and implementation of our learning and development strategy. This means I design trainings sessions, facilitate work sessions, assess learning needs and manage organizational projects. I also teach Clifton Strengths for staff at the university, with the goal of empowering everyone to understand their unique talens in a way that helps them live thier most fulfilled life.
What inspired you to pursue studies in education, and how do you use what you learned today?
Supporting and encouraging others to reach their fullest potential is my life's passion. I fundamentally believe in the power of learning to transform lives and am honored to be a facilitator and guide in the learning journeys of others. In my career, I believe in the human development of employees at MSU in addition to the development of their skills, knowledge and processes. We are beginning the implementation of a mobile learning strategy, as our workforce was recently equipped with mobile devices as a tool for transforming our business.
What advice do you have for Spartans interested in becoming a teacher?
Figure out what you want to teach and pursue it. Not ever teaching role aligns with the traditional narrative of what we consider to be a teacher. That doesn't mean the opportunities don't exist; education is increasingly needed in every industry.
Danielle Lavalais, Fifth Grade/Reading
How do you use your studies from MSU in your teaching today?
I read because reading powerful literature has changed my life. The most life-changing literature was my MSU TE 250 coursepack. These studies truly shaped the lens in which I see the world. I was forever changed!
The readings included a wealth of knowledge and data on discrepancies in the American experience, depending on race, socio-economic status and other factors. It truly opened my eyes to the vastly different experiences children walk into our classrooms with. It framed my thinking to be aware of my own biases, and to fight to give each child equal access to success while I have them as students.
Curtis Lewis, Curriculum, Instruction & Culture
Explanation of work:
Curtis Lewis has always been willing to build change from the ground up. In Detroit, he was the founding principal of a successful elementary school and now overseas teaching across the city's largest nonprofit network of charters. Along the way, he's also been building up a statewide network of educators with more potential to transform learning experiences: black male educators. Now he serves as the Executive Director of Curriuculum, Instruction & Culture.
In his own words:
Your zip code shouldn't determine the level of education you receive. I want to transform schools so that all students have equitable learning experiences. I want them to feel they have the resources, but also the mindset and the confidence to improve society.
Learn about Curtis:
- Founder and chairman of the board, Black Male Educators Alliance of Michigan
- Founding principal, Henry Ford Academy: Elementary School
- Turnaround principal, Henry Ford Academy: School for Creative Studies
- 2013 cohort member: "The Michigan Chronicle" 40 under 40 rising leaders in Detroit
- Former teacher and student support specialist, Lansing School District
Lakeya Omogun, Literacy & Literacy Student
Explanation of work:
Former elementary teacher Lakeya Omogun is supporting the next generation of learners in a new way: academia. Her experience as classroom teacher of (first-generation) immigrant students in New York City shaped her research interests, and she now examines black immigrant youth identities in literacy spaces, and preservice teachers of color and their sociocultural approaches to literacy instruction.
In her own words:
Upon my graduation with a doctoral degree in 2021, I plan to pursue a tenure-track position at a university. Because it’s equally important for me to stay connected to schools and communities, I’d also like to explore future consultation and workshop opportunities that center on sociocultural approaches to literacy instruction.
Learn about Lakeya:
- Instructor, University of Texas, Austin
- Former field supervisor for preservice teachers, Austin Independent School District
Jenna Pratt, English
When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
I knew I wanted to be a teacher from an early age. My grandma would babysit me when I was younger, and I used to make fake seating charts and play school with her. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I began to realize this career path was possible. As I continued to study education and my love for English in college, I realized how important teaching is not only to a community, but to society as well. I wanted to be able to work closely with future doctors, writers, FBI agents and so on. I wanted to share my love of reading and writing with my students. Day in and day out, they are the reasons I love my job so much—because I can visually see the fruits of my labor. It's such a gratifying, humbling, wonderful experience being an educator.
What is one of your favorite lesson plans?
During the first few days of school in my 7th grade class, I have students create a six-word story to describe themselves to me, and then we come back to them at the end of the year. I love this because it reminds me that these are the kids I am teaching and learning alongside this year.
Kaylie Quimby, Special Education
Position: Special Education
Employer: Union Ridge School District
Teaching Certificate 2017
Location: Chicago, IL
Why did you become a teacher?
The main reason I became a teacher was to make a difference in the lives of those that need the most help and guidance. As a special education teacher, I am able to be a positive presence in the lives of students who struggle academically and socially. I am able to be their advocate and voice in and out of the classroom. I personally know what it's like to have a family member with a disability, and I use this empathy to connect with parents and work patiently with students. I get to celebrate milestones as each child reaches their goals. I absolutely love my job! This is definitely my calling in life. Every day, I get to wake up and say: I am a special education teacher. My dream has come true, thanks to Michigan State University's College of Education. Go Green, Go White, Go Forth!
Kevin Tobe, Mathematics
Explanation of work:
Kevin Tobe is an educator, advisor, mentor and volunteer who is known for his dedication to inspiring students in math and in life. With leadership positions at his high school and alma mater, and with state- and national-level recognition, Tobe’s teaching focuses on fostering student creativity, curiosity and confidence.
What inspires you as a teacher?
The innovative thinking of my students is inspiring and brings out the best in me as a teacher. It is amazing to watch a student find their voice and realize the power of their words, their thoughts, and their ability to problem-solve.
Learn more about Kevin:
- Milken Educator of the Year (2015)
- Member of inaugural Michigan Teacher Leadership Advisory Council for the State Department of Education (2017)
Member, College of Education Alumni Board (2017 - present)
Member, Bond Committee, Haslett High School
Member, Leadership Team, Haslett High School
Head Coach, Girls Track, Haslett High School
Math Department Chair, Haslett High School
Angela Totten, K-5 STEAM
Position: K-5 STEAM
Employer: Hudsonville Public Schools
Teacher Certification 2001
Degrees: B.A., Education 2002; M.A. Teaching and Curriculum 2010
Location: Hudsonville, MI
- Professional Website
Explanation of work:
I am very fortunate to teach K-5 STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) to every student in my elementary school as part of a specials rotation. I get to lay the foundation in kindergarten and am able to build on it each year through fifth grade.
What is your inspiration for becoming a teacher?
My inspiration for being a STEAM teacher comes from a passion for keeping students engaged in learning through meaningful activities. A student shouldn’t have to ask “why are we learning this?”, they should be able to see how the material they are learning applies to the real world. As a result of this passion I have had the privilege of starting a STEAM program in two different districts. When starting the STEAM program in my current district, we didn’t just want a science curriculum that we would call STEAM, we truly wanted to have science, technology, engineering, art and math authentically represented in real world situations for students in every class; from kindergarten through fifth grade. We found a curriculum that provided our district with an inquiry-based approach. I cover multiple units that allow the students to use STEAM skills to start with a problem, compete hands-on activities to build knowledge, solve the problem and complete a final project. Every lesson is done in cooperative groups of four to six students. Team building skills and promoting a growth mindset are a part of every lesson I teach.
What advise do you have for future Spartans?
The College of Education at Michigan State is one of the best in the country for a reason. They make sure you are prepared by maximizing the time you spend in a variety of classrooms throughout your education courses. The full year internship provides more than just experiences in teaching curriculum; you get to help set up the classroom, take an active role in establishing rules and procedures, sit in on parent/teacher conferences, and participate in the professional development they offer. You are truly prepared for your first year as a teacher. Go Green! Go White!
- Air Zoo Science Innovation Hall of Fame - Educator Excellence Award (2019)
Kate Watson, Social Studies
Position: Social Studies
Employer: South Iredell High School
Teacher Certification 2014
Location: Statesville, NC
Why did you become a teacher?
I got into teaching for the students, because a fun and engaging classroom can be a great place to provide emotional support and expand student knowledge and collaboration. I became a teacher for the students, and I hope to help them find moments of support, understanding and comfort.
Can you describe a lesson plan?
I decided it was best to ask the students about an experience they have had with a teacher that they appreciate, and/or a class that inspired them. Some of their responses are in the picture provided.
Melinda White, STEM Curriculum
Position: STEM Curriculum
Employer: Maui Economic Development Board STEMworks Program
Teacher Certification 2007
Degrees: B.A., Special Education 2006; M.A., Teaching and Curriculum 2014
Location: Kihei, HI
- M.A. in Teaching & Curriculum
How did your graduate studies with the Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum (MATC) program help you in your career as a STEM Curriculm Developer?
Every MATC course was relevant to digital and experiential learning, and supportive of ideas that continue to push traditional structures of education. Earning my master’s degree enabled a role on the MEDB STEMworks™ team where every day I have opportunities to bridge the school experience with "science and industry." For the past three years, I’ve been working with schools statewide, listening to teachers, managing STEM programs and writing standards aligned STEM curriculum. My perspective on education has grown so much since I began my master’s courses. I believe curriculum should be community connected and place based. I believe it is an interplay of form and function that helps provide equitable access to the progression of knowledge for all learners. I hope that my curriculum can become a shared experience that celebrates diversity, honors cultural relevance and gives students a voice because I believe that curriculum can advance knowledge and transform lives.
Dan Wolford, Academic Engagement
Position: Academic Engagement
Employer: Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School
Teacher Certification 2015
Location: Detroit, MI
What did you learn from your studies at MSU that help you in your role as Assistant Director of Academic Engagement?:
MSU teachers showed me how I can use my gifts and passions to connect with students. I learned how to develop trust with students and use their cultural skills to build content knowledge in my role. Mentors like Erik Skogsberg have continued to be an influence in my pedagogy and practice. In addition, after earning my Master of Arts in Teaching and Curriculum at MSU in 2018, I know I have a strong network of people I can reach out to and lean on for support. Go Green!
Ben Woodcock, English
Employer: Okemos High School
Teaching Certificate 2015
Location: Okemos, MI
- Professional Website
Why did you choose to become a teacher?
I became a teacher because I always enjoyed helping others learn new skills and information. I also liked the idea of educating communities. Growing up, my dream jobs ranged from being a DNR officer to band director ... to English teacher!
I chose English as a major because of my lifelong passions of reading, writing and public speaking. Both the education and English programs at Michigan State University valued my previous experiences and allowed me to explore new opportunities, flourish with like-minded individuals and be challenged along the way with a strong support system of mentors, professors and instructors. These resources are still present as I work on a master's degree from the College of Education.
How do you grow as an educator?
I am constantly looking for opportunities to grow professionally. I attend workshops, present at conferences across the state and country about what my students and I are doing in the classroom and maintain a strong presence in online platforms to always be thinking about the profession and how I can be better for my students.