By the time she entered middle school, Casandra Gore, MAT ’18, had already caught the “science bug.”
An avid reader growing up, Casandra fueled her curiosity about the world as a Girl Scout. In ninth grade, her enthusiasm for learning was so strong that her science teacher asked her to create a presentation for her peers. Casandra chose to focus on geology, and prepared a lesson on the three types of rocks that occur in nature.
“That experience solidified my desire to become a teacher,” said the Southwick, MA, local. “I took my love of learning, desire to teach people new things, and my interest in science to create my future goal.”
Raising the Bar
After earning her undergraduate degree in general science at Westfield State University, Casandra continued to foster her passion for science at Elms. She enrolled in the master of arts in teaching (MAT) program, where she specialized in STEM education for grades 5-8. She chose Elms not only for its reputation and academic rigor, she said, but for its faculty mentorship.
“Everyone in my cohort was focused, engaged, and felt welcomed because the professors truly cared about our success,” she said. “The faculty took the time to learn our names and academic majors, and to connect the course content with the subjects we wanted to teach.”
Some of Casandra’s courses challenged her in unexpected ways, she said. But, her most memorable experience was continually revising her lesson plans after in-depth discussions with her professor. Pushing her academic limits was rewarding, she said, because it helped shape her teaching persona. Now, as a seventh grade science teacher at Carmen Arace Middle School in Bloomfield, CT, Casandra holds her students to the same high standards she encountered at Elms.
“I still incorporate my Elms professor’s expectations in my own classes, as well as the opportunity to redo assignments,” she said. “Students will make mistakes, and they should be given the ability to learn and grow from them.”
Casandra credits Elms with helping her cultivate the skills she needed to give her classroom a strong pedagogical foundation. She feels comfortable with guiding her students in collaborative, transformational learning experiences. In her eyes, it’s a dream come true.
Casandra’s advice for new teachers is to pursue their MAT or master of education (M.Ed.) without hesitation.
“These degrees make you more valuable as a teacher,” she said. “You have a stronger knowledge base about your subject, proven educational pedagogy that you can incorporate into your lessons, and an increase in your yearly salary.”
Casandra has set her sights even higher, however. She ultimately intends to earn her Education Specialist – Science Education (Ed.S.) degree, which not only symbolizes expertise of the highest level in her field, but also empowers her to work as an administrator behind the scenes, shaping educational environments from the top down.
Working “behind the scenes” is a fitting metaphor, Casandra said, as it honors her late high school theater arts teacher, Mr. Van Farrier.
“When anyone asks me who my favorite teacher was, they always think it was a science teacher,” Casandra said. “Nope. It was Mr. Van Farrier. I made an entire slideshow presentation for one of my classes at Elms. I got teary eyed in front of my class watching it—he was such a huge inspiration.”
Advice for Future Teachers
To say that teachers experience an emotional rollercoaster throughout the year is an understatement. Now, in light of the myriad changes brought about by COVID-19, their mental health is more important than ever. Casandra’s recommendation to all educators—but especially teachers entering their first or second year on the job—is to embrace the ups and downs to the best of their ability.
“This is how you blossom and become a more confident and experienced teacher for your students year after year,” she said. “You have the amazing opportunity to educate future generations to become engineers, doctors, artists, and so much more.”
“The possibilities are endless,” she added. “They are endless because of you.”