May 2020: Future teacher found her home at Georgia College

May 2020: Future teacher found her home at Georgia College

Christina Saraiva
Christina Saraiva

Christina Saraiva 

What’s your major? I majored in Middle Grades Education with a concentration in math and English.  
 
Where are you from?  I was born in New York, and moved to Georgia when I was a freshman in high school. I attended Lassiter High School in Marietta. Since I moved here from New York, I wasn’t familiar with college programs in Georgia. I didn’t have aunts, uncles, cousins, or anyone that had went to college here. Since my counselor knew I wanted to be a teacher, she shared several schools that were known for their education programs. She recommended Georgia College, and I applied Early Action. I was accepted but had never been to the school before. I told my mom that I should probably go check it out since I got accepted, and we did. As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew this would be my home for the next four years. I felt so welcomed by the Georgia College Ambassadors and fell in love with the campus. I headed over to West Campus, and put in a housing application the same day. I am so thankful my counselor encouraged me to apply. In that moment, I had no idea how much Georgia College would have an impact on me.   
 
What activities have you been involved with during college?  I student taught at Early College, Ridge Road Elementary School in Washington County, Gray Station in Jones County, and Wilkinson County Middle School. I loved teaching so much that I was a Sunday School teacher. I taught pre-k through first grade children on Sundays. 
 

What was your favorite class/professor and why?  There were two math teachers that made an impact on the way I teach, Dr. Santarone and Dr. Abney. Dr. Sanatarone taught Mathematical Investigating, where we learned ways to teach students difficult math concepts (like fractions) in a hands-on way. Math concepts can be so abstract for students, and using manipulatives made the abstract concepts more concrete. One of my most fondest memories from this class was doing the locker problem. If you ever get bored, go ahead and try it. It’s so famous that when you search it on google it will come up (but don’t look at the answer key). It takes forever, but the feeling of accomplishing it at the end is so worth it. Dr. Abney taught two math classes but these classes only for math concentrations, concepts in Algebra and concepts in Geometry. Most of us in the class had taken geometry and algebra before, but trust me, it didn’t help. Instead of telling us how she would teach a class, she acted as a role model. She would present us with a problem, and it would probably take us majority of the class to solve it. Once we all had solved the problem, every group would present how they solved. There were always multiple ways to solve a problem, but we all got the same answer. She emphasized that there doesn’t need to be ‘one’ way, and we should encourage this in our future classes. She modeled for us that if students struggle, let them! It’s truly productive struggle. Don’t worry, she eventually would walk around and ask follow up questions to help guide our thinking if we were really stuck. After solving each problem, we went over it and connected mathematical vocabulary and academic language. But it made so much more sense because we had figured it out already, now we were just putting a label on it. I do love math so I could be biased but these were my favorite classes. These classes were unlike any other math course I took at Georgia College. The titles of the classes may sound easy but wow, I have never been more challenged. The thing that made these classes challenging is that you had to ‘forget’ what you learned and start from scratch because that’s how we are going to teach our students. These classes were built on the ideas of constructivism. For example, when we teach students how to add/sub negative and positive numbers, instead of giving them the rules, we give them an experience that would help them construct the meaning of it. Constructivism has become a main part of my philosophy as a teacher. Instead of giving students rules or steps to solve in the beginning, I want to present students with problems where they can construct their own meaning of concepts. Dr. Santarone and Dr. Abney are effective math teachers who engage you in the lesson every day. They encourage collaboration and that helped us all build relationships with people in our cohort. We struggled together and celebrated together! 
 
How has your experience at Georgia College helped you grow in your field or as a person? Georgia College has helped me develop as a middle grades educator. The Middle Grades program at Georgia College is one of the top teacher prep programs in the nation. This year, we won two awards at AMLE. We won Outstanding CMLA Chapter. (CMLA stands for Collegiate Middle Level Association). We also won the Outstanding Middle Grades Undergraduate Teacher Education Program. These two awards were awarded by the National Association of Professors of Middle Level Education (NaPOMLE), which is an affiliate of Association of Middle Level Education (AMLE). During the two years in the middle grades program, I have attended the GCTM conference, attended the AMLE annual conference in Nashville, and presented at a research conference at KSU. I would like to add that Dr. Peters drove all sixteen of us in a bus to Nashville to attend the AMLE conference, and drove us back and forth to the hotel to the conference daily. We were awarded the Chapter Grant which covered soke of the expenses of attending the trip. Additionally, I have taken part in several professional learning opportunities. I became Summit Chair for Georgia College's CMLA; Summit is a student led conference, and our theme was "Be the Change you Want to See!" I worked closely with Mark Springer, our keynote speaker. Through this experience, I developed leadership, organization, and collaboration skills all of which are best practices for teachers. I have been in multiple placements starting in my freshman year, where I have designed and implemented lesson plans, attended parent/teacher conferences, attended data meetings, and conducted a teacher work sample where I analyzed student's performance overtime. As a senior, I have been in the same middle school all year since pre-planning; I go to placement Monday through Friday. In all the education classes, we talked about educational philosophy and theories but being able to put those in practice was a rewarding experience. Dr. Previts encouraged self-assessment and reflection throughout my time in the cohort which showed me how much I had developed over time. Looking back, I am amazed by how much we (the senior cohort) have developed in such a short time. I was also fortunate to be a part of the iPad Initiative, because I learned how to integrate technology in my classroom. Dr. Greer and Dr  Previts taught us numerous ways we can use the iPads in our classroom to enhance student learning. We became Apple and Google Educator certified. We also used the iPads to record ourselves teaching so that we can reflect on our practice to develop as educators. Dr. Mizelle taught several classes as well. She emphasized how important reading is in any classroom. She encouraged all content teachers to incorporate reading, even math! Dr. Previts and Dr. Mizelle taught us how important it is to build a classroom community as they modeled it for us in our cohort. Yes the program was a lot of work, but worth it in the end. I have never felt so prepared to have my own classroom next year. I am so excited to meet my future students. I am so thankful for my cohort members, because we leaned on each other in the hard times and celebrated our achievements together. Throughout the two years in the program, we developed relationships that will last forever.  

What are your plans after graduation?  My first plan was to take a cruise around Greece, but that trip has been rescheduled for next summer!! I love to travel, so I included a picture of me in Peru during winter break below. I accepted a math teacher position at Mill Creek Middle School in Cherokee County! It’s close to hometown so I’ll still be close to family and friends. I’m planning on moving into an apartment in Woodstock. After my first-year teaching, I plan to come back to Georgia College to get my masters. I would like to add that during the teacher recruitment fair at Georgia College and interviews, I never felt stumped. I had so many experiences to talk about, because the middle grades education program had prepared us so well. I felt like all the interviewers and recruiters were impressed. We all had unique stories and experiences to tell that made us stand out. I’m grateful for the many opportunities Georgia College has provided me with. 
 
Anything else you’d like to mention?  I’m so sad that I won’t walk the stage with my fellow peers, but I am proud to be a Georgia College Grad. This experience has taught me how to live in the moment. I used to be so upset on Sundays about having to go back to classes and back to student teaching because it would mean going back to reality and all my responsibilities. But now, I would do anything to go back to school and see my students again! This experience has also taught me to be thankful for the little things in life. Being able to walk around the store without the fear of getting sick is something I never thought to be grateful for but now I will be. I mean who knew going to TJMaxx would become such a luxury outing. I took so much for granted, and this pandemic has truly put things in perspective.