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People of Poe | Jed McLaughlin on Why I’ve Changed the Way I Look at Science Education

Jed McLaughlin
Jed McLaughlin

Not all educators grow up knowing that they want to teach. Get to know Jed McLaughlin, a junior from Statesville, North Carolina, studying science education with a middle grades concentration.

Why did you choose education?

I thought I wanted to be an engineer, but I realized that wasn’t what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I thought about who had influenced me in my life and what I could really enjoy doing for the rest of my life. The idea of impacting students is what drew me to education. I had quite a few teachers who made a big impact on me, and I want to be able to do the same.

Tell us about a person here at the College of Education who has influenced you.

Dr. [Penny Shumaker] Jeffrey teaches a lot of the science education courses, but I’ve also worked with her through the National Science Teachers Association. She’s really changed how I view teaching science. When I was in school, science classes were a direct instruction. Classes with Dr. Jeffrey are totally different from this, so it’s changed the way I look at science education.

What kind of an educator do you hope to be?

Patient is the first quality that popped into my head. Being patient with a student will go a long way in building a rapport with them and educating them. You’ll struggle a lot if you’re always getting frustrated with students. You also need to have kindness to build a solid relationship with a student.

What is your biggest accomplishment?

Getting the internship that I worked this past summer. I interned at the Museum of Natural Sciences in downtown Raleigh, working with various summer camps. It was a pretty competitive selection process, so it was exciting to get the internship experience, but it was more exciting to be able to work with kids all summer.

One of the activities we’d do with the kids was called Windows on the World. We would have themes, like a desert theme, and we’d bring in plants and live animals that would live in that theme’s environment. I think this type of program is one of the most important things that museum educators do–showing children real examples of science and what it looks like.

This experience definitely reaffirmed my decision to become an educator, and it also made me think about the different career paths I can take as an educator. Since I wasn’t teaching in a classroom, there were some obstacles that I didn’t anticipate having, but the satisfaction of being an educator was awesome. Getting to know the education staff at the museum helped me see other career paths within the field of education.

What advice do you have for somebody who’s considering education?

A lot of the concerns that people have with education is that the pay is not particularly great. I think if you really soul search and know that teaching is what you’re passionate about and it’s what you want to do, then you should pursue it.