In this interview, Secondary English MAT alum Waldina Pineda, who now teaches in Mamaroneck, NY, discusses her experience in Brown’s program, and how it helped her become the teacher she is today.
What were you doing before the program?
Prior to participating in the MAT program, I was an undergrad at Brown. I concentrated in Education Studies and I was happy to call the Education Department my home for an additional year. When I arrived to Brown as a freshman, I planned on concentrating in Biology and completing Pre-Med requirements. However, after participating in several education projects and taking a few Education Studies classes, I found that I was more passionate about education than I was in medicine. While at Brown, I tutored students at Hope High School and also participated in the College Guidance Project through the Swearer Center. Both experiences gave me the opportunity to work with students as an academic tutor and mentor. Teaching for a summer in Miami with Breakthrough Collaborative also helped me see that working with students was the right fit me.
What are you doing now?
Currently, I am teaching at a high school in the Mamaroneck Union Free School District in New York. Before working at Mamaroneck, I worked at a charter school in the south Bronx. I’m glad to have found the right fit with Mamaroneck. At Mamaroneck, I teach 9th grade English and a class called Academic Enrichment, which focuses on helping students build literacy skills. I’ve also had the wonderful opportunity of helping my department create and build both the Academic Enrichment and English 9 curricula to meet new district initiatives, as well as the new common core standards. Collaborating with my colleagues is really motivating. They and the work they do really push me to be better. I’m really grateful to have found a school that challenges me and gives me the opportunity to grow as a teacher.
What attracted you to Brown’s program?
As a Brown undergrad that concentrated in Education Studies, I was already familiar with all the great work the department and its professors do with students and teachers. Aside from that, I was really attracted to the size of the Brown MAT program. I visited a few larger schools and I could easily see myself getting lost there. I knew that I would get the attention and personal guidance I needed to grow and develop my craft as a teacher at Brown.
What was the highlight of the program?
Definitely the relationships I built. To this day, I still keep in contact with many of my peers from the program and I know that Laura Snyder is always an email away. I still talk through teaching ideas with some of my friends from the program—much as I did while I was in the program. The relationships I built with Laura and my mentor teacher at E-Cubed Academy were also really important. Because they both worked really closely with me, they really knew who I was as a teacher and how I could use that to really develop my craft. Through their support, feedback and guidance, I felt like I learned so much and was prepared for my first year of teaching.
How did the program meet your expectations?
I am the teacher I am today because of the Brown MAT program. I am in my third year of teaching and I still have so much to learn and I look forward to growing as a teacher. However, there are certain aspects about teaching that come naturally to me because the Brown program trained me so well. The program really does meet teachers where they are. Teaching is really personal. In addition to receiving instruction and practice with pedagogy in a whole class setting, I felt like I received support and guidance that was specific to me. I still think about the personal guidance and feedback I received during the program when I plan and teach today.
How did the program help you meet your personal goals?
I had two personal goals going into the program: (1) To gain experience and training in the field of education and (2) To find my “voice” (I am extremely shy). Brown provided me with a great amount of experience and training. Both BSHS and student teaching gave me enough experience to discuss during the hiring process and to inform my planning and decisions during my first year of teaching. Brown also helped me find my teacher “voice.” The Brown program gave me enough opportunities and experience (both inside and outside the classroom, as a teacher and student, in a team or without a team, et cetera) that put me on the spot and challenged me to overcome my shyness.
What do you like best about your work as a teacher?
The students. Working with students during undergrad inspired me to become a teacher, and my students today inspire me to be a better teacher for them. I am very committed to guiding them as they grow as readers, writers, thinkers and young people. I love seeing them grow, and it’s great to think about where they were in the beginning of the year and where they are by the end.
What would you tell someone considering the Brown MAT?
They should know that the Brown MAT program prepares them for success in the classroom. Individual support and guidance is so important for new teachers. This is what you get at Brown. I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else. If anyone has any questions, they can feel free to ask Laura for my email address!
I am really grateful for my experience at Brown!