Below, she tells us in an edited interview how she made the transition from sales to education and how that jump led her to a near-perfect score on the edTPA, a performance-based, subject-specific assessment and support system used to emphasize, measure and support the skills and knowledge that all teachers need from their first day in the classroom.
I chose to attend NC State College of Education after realizing sales wasn’t for me because a lot of my friends attended as teaching fellows. When I went into my undergrad program, I started as a political science major with the intention of going to law school. I didn’t like my political science class, so I knew I should change majors. My decision was between education and business. As an 18-year-old who didn’t know what I wanted, I chose business because it seemed logical.
I graduated and accepted a job in sales, but I couldn’t see myself at my company long term. Something was missing, so I chose to quit my job and continue volunteering while figuring out my next move.
I volunteer with the Miracle League — a sporting league dedicated to providing opportunities for children with disabilities to play baseball — because I’ve always liked little kids. I’ve volunteered since I was a sophomore in high school, and now, I’m in my fourth year as a coach.
It sounds cheesy, but volunteering with Miracle League is so rewarding. These kids wouldn’t be able to participate in a regular team activity, so Miracle League gives them a chance to play, and at the same time, their parents get to see them doing something normal like playing baseball.
I enrolled in the Master’s of Art in Teaching in Special Education because of my work with the Miracle League and Specialized Recreation and Inclusion Services here in Raleigh.
One requirement for graduation is the edTPA. It’s an analysis of knowledge gained from your program and a reflection of your own teaching. I had to identify a focus learner, go through an individualized education program (IEP) for that student, identify goals within the IEP, then develop a lesson plan incorporating those goals.
Next, I had to film the lesson plan and find 20 minutes of film to analyze to describe what I did, why I taught that way, and how effective I was for the student.
There are three scored tasks within the edTPA — planning, instruction and commentary. The highest score possible is 75. A score of 38 is passing, and a score of 45 is considered mastery level. I scored a 73.
The most significant takeaway was learning to be flexible. I had to develop extensive lesson plans, and there wasn’t a single day that everything went the way I planned it to go. Filming the process added another level of pressure that I felt. If something happened, a fire drill or if another child in the classroom acted out, I couldn’t edit out. I just had to learn how to let it happen and be okay with it. It was stressful.
My time in the classroom was a really interesting experience because the students were all different grade levels, ability levels. Being able to adapt and meet every kid at their level, especially in a cross-categorical classroom, is really important. It taught me to take time to get to know the students, discover their strengths, figure out areas where they needed help, then go from there. There is no one size fits all, especially in Special Education. — As told to Leah W. Jarvis