Monthly Archives: November 2014

Community, Equity, Positivity: Science Alumni Reflect on their MAT Years

Each year, many members of our vibrant MAT cohort consist of the the Science concentrators: students focusing on broadening and deepening their knowledge in Biology, Chemistry, or Engineering/Physics while training to become secondary school teachers.  We asked a few of our Science MAT alumni to share their thoughts on how their Brown education influences their current experiences as educators in science.

EmilyEmily Berman, Science MAT ‘14

Thanks to my experiences with the MAT program, I have entered my first year of teaching with confidence, focus, and, most importantly, an ability to reflect on my practice. The MAT program has taught me to be a conscious educator, and I am grateful that I am able to use the skills I have been taught to put together a strong lesson, and then afterwards to think critically about how I can improve upon it. The quality of reflective practice made me a strong candidate for teaching positions, and has been invaluable in the classroom. I am teaching 7th and 8th grade science, and I feel that the MAT program’s emphasis on reflection has helped me become more responsive to my students’ needs. During my year in the program, I was pushed to take risks and try new things with my students, and this also has been a great asset to my classroom teaching. I am having so much fun during my first year of teaching, and I really do feel I can attribute that to the attitude that the MAT program instilled in me!

Brianna-BalkeBrianna Balke, Science MAT ‘13

When I started the MAT program in 2012, I had a strong sense of what kind of teacher I wanted to be, but lacked the practical skills to transform that idealistic vision into reality. The MAT year provided me the opportunity to develop those skills in a supportive environment, while also pushing me to deepen and broaden my sense of how I could be a powerful agent of social change in the classroom. I am particularly thankful for the opportunities I had to engage with incredible faculty, mentors, and thoughtful, passionate teachers around what it means to create equitable, student-centered, inquiry-based classrooms that focus on students as individuals. The relationships I built with my faculty, mentors, and fellow teachers continue to sustain me in my teaching practice today.

Last year I taught at a school in my home state of Colorado, but I am now back in Rhode Island, teaching at Blackstone Academy, where I did my student teaching two years ago. I loved my student teaching experience so much that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to return as a full-time teacher when a position became available. I could not be more excited to be at a school that shares the same values as the Brown MAT program: a focus on community, equity, positive school culture, and individualized learning.

MATs Descend on Washington D.C. for NCTE Annual Convention


On Sunday evening, English MAT students, faculty, and Providence-area alumni and mentor teachers gathered to hear in-person and Skype previews of some of this year’s presentations for the 2014 National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) annual convention. Presenters connected through Skype from California, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Burkina Faso! The event provided a great opportunity for rehearsal and was also designed to inspire current graduate students to take their own teacher research to the national stage.

Eleven English MAT/UTEP alumni, faculty, and students then descended on Washington, D.C. this week to take part in the NCTE convention from November 20-23.  MAT Professor Laura Snyder will be presenting with a group of four alumni on “Young Adult Literature as Part of a Social Justice Curriculum”. Their presentation will highlight key books taught in English classes at Brown Summer High School and peek into the alumni’s current classrooms around the world. Several of these teachers are also presenting their own research or presenting curricula with their schools and districts.

Waldina Pineda (MAT ‘11) will be presenting with others from her district on transforming their ninth grade English classes into a “readers and writers workshops”. Michelle Ramadan (UTEP ‘10) will present about understanding the Middle East through literature. Erik Skogsberg (MAT ‘09) will be speaking about teaching diverse learners. Brittany Brewer (MAT ‘15) will be presenting her recently completed Teacher Research Project, inspired by her work in arts literacy, on “Navigating Non-Fiction with Drama”.

Professor Snyder has also been leading an alumni panel at the NCTE conference for the past four years. This year’s panel features Sara Tahir (MAT ‘14), Debbie Yoon (MAT ‘13), Emily Scherer (MAT ‘13), and Eric Spreng (MAT ‘13).

Stay tuned for a recap following the conference!

“The Beginning of Something New” for Brown 5th-Year Students

Each year, a number of students in our cohort consist of Brown “5th-Years”: those who have just completed their undergraduate education at Brown University, and opt to stay on board for another year as they earn their MAT degree. We asked a few of our current 5th-Years to share their thoughts and feelings on their extra year at Brown.

Wendy Rogers, History/Social Studies MAT ‘15

Continuing at Brown for a fifth-year in the MAT program allows you to experience the invigorating newness of freshman year with the sense of purpose and comfort that can only be achieved after spending four years already on campus. In many ways, the classes feel like regular undergrad courses (and often, they are). However, approaching the courses through the lens of a teacher-in-training, as opposed to an undergrad with an abstract interest in the subject, allows for what I have found to be a much more fulfilling classroom experience. Now, when I listen to a lecture or participate in a discussion section, my thoughts aren’t just on final papers. Instead I ask, “How can I teach this to my students so they are as engaged as I am right now?” In many ways, the fifth year feels like just that – a fifth year in the same place. In more important ways, it feels like the beginning of something new.

ToriTeachingSummer14Victoria Wilson, Elementary MAT ‘15

During SummerPrep, I felt for the first time that I was truly immersed in a ‘world’ of teaching. Sure, I had plenty of teaching experiences in the past – I had taught at D’Abate’s summer program, as well as in a number of other classrooms as an assistant teacher – but SummerPrep’s days provided me a glimpse into how everyday teaching in a classroom might look and feel. I came to know not only a new kind of exhaustion, arriving at 7:30 AM each day and leaving after my own literacy, math, or analysis class at 5:00 PM, but also a different sort of flexibility. I became more familiar with lesson planning, preparing my materials days in advance, and learning to tweak them based on students’ progress and needs gleaned from the previous day. I saw how units of study, such as the literacy unit plan my co-teacher and I developed together, could transform as we realized what our students could do and what we might in turn challenge them to discover. I learned how wonderful it is to plan my questions in advance – never before had I realized they would be that much better – yet that I must also remember to think on my feet, taking each new question or comment from a child thoughtfully as it comes.

After SummerPrep, I felt ready to enter my fall placement at Pleasant View Elementary School. I know how  to remain flexible with lesson planning, and I know how to better manage my time. Although my placement has brought new challenges for me – and, of course, I am always learning – I am grateful for the experience I had this summer.