Maymester’s Message? ‘I Want to Be a Teacher’

The program gives tomorrow's educators a preview of the student-teaching experience

June 6, 2016

By Chuck Carlson

Bess Pelton. ’17, sets up her presentation for the Showcase Learning Fair, held May 26 in the Science Complex atrium.

In seeking to educate others, Leah Joynt, ’17, learned a lot about herself.

“I was originally thinking of teaching English and psychology,” said Joynt, a Grand Blanc native who is majoring in English with a concentration in secondary education and minoring in psychology. “But after this experience, I want to work with autistic and special-needs kids. It was really valuable and I learned a lot. I probably learned more than the kids did.”

Education, it seems, can come from all directions and perhaps that was never more in evidence than at the 10th annual Showcase Learning Fair, hosted by Albion College’s Education Department and Fritz Shurmur Center for Teacher Development.

Better known as Maymester, the program allows prospective teachers—all junior-year students—to gain their first opportunity to actually teach a class before the traditional senior-year student-teaching experience. During the spring semester, they observed in classrooms at both Marshall High School and the Albion Community School, collaborating with mentor teachers at the schools to create a three-week unit plan to teach in May.

The results of that three-week session were on display for a public viewing in the Science Complex atrium May 26.

Students showcased projects spanning a diverse range of topics, with titles such as “Useful Science in Our Community,” “Genetics in Our World,” “From Birdhouses to Bookhouses” and “Scavenger Hunt Through the Community to Apply Useful Skills.” Joynt’s project, “Talking About Feelings in the Classroom and Beyond,” aimed to help autistic kids communicate better.

Bess Pelton, ’17, an English major with an elementary education concentration, worked with Albion Community School teacher Nancy Polnasek on a project titled “Respectability and Responsibility in the Family and Community.”

Pelton, a Bloomfield Hills native who plans to student-teach next year, said she found exactly what she was looking for in Maymester.

“It was a really good experience,” she said as she tacked up examples of her students’ work on a display board. “I spent 10 to 20 hours doing this and I was really immersed in it. Being in class all day gave me an idea of what it really takes to be a teacher. I always knew I wanted to work with kids and this just solidified it. I want to be a teacher.”

After finishing her display setup, she smiled.

“And this is like a final exam,” she said.

Tracy Haroff, a science and math teacher at Marshall High who mentored Albion student Courtney Kondor, ’17, and her project about useful science in the community, said Maymester is an invaluable tool for young, would-be teachers.

“I think it gives them more confidence being around kids,” she said. “That’s the hard part and you have to figure it out. It’s their first real foray into that.”

Natalie Anderson, ’16, was preparing to leave for her teaching assignment in Mexico as part of her Fulbright Award, but stopped by to relive her experience from last year with Maymester.

“I was really excited to show off my kids’ work,” she said. “I felt I was showcasing my kids and I was proud of them. Three weeks working with them doesn’t seem like a long time, but you form a bond.”