Through her Multiculturalism in Education course, O’Brien observed math classes at Barron Middle School. She also worked with 10 to 12 students in the Expanding Learning Opportunities Program, in the English as a Second Language classroom.
O’Brien began her student teaching internship in Ellsworth in January, in an eighth-grade math classroom. Her co-op teacher, Karen Beard, was hired at the same time. “I’ve really been enjoying it,” O’Brien said. “Because we both came into the new classroom together, I got to hear Karen set her classroom expectations, and we go to talk together about our wants and goals for the students.”
Beard and McNaughton believe O’Brien will be an excellent teacher and an asset to LEAD’s math program, as she takes initiative working with students.
“Erin is a dedicated and passionate math teacher that cares about the success of all students in her classroom. She is an energetic and enthusiastic individual, and it carries over into her creating a positive learning environment for her students,” Beard added.
After teaching much of the algebra course through her internship, O’Brien is confident and prepared to lead her first classroom in Nashville.
“Eighth graders are a tough group. They feel like they’re top dog in middle school, but they’re basically freshmen,” she said. “I once heard that if you can teach eighth graders, you can teach any group of kids. They’re good kids but they like to test your boundaries.
“It’s also about trying to find ways to bridge gaps with them. The pandemic really hurt young students’ education and social experiences. So, how do we prepare them for algebra when some of them don’t have other basic skills?” she added.
For students who need additional support in math, Ellsworth has an online Foundations in Math program, which students can take at their own pace. O’Brien helps to set up students with the program.
She is also working with Spanish-speaking ELO students at Ellsworth, teaching them math in English and Spanish, with added activities to help in their speaking skills, like playing hangman using math-associated words. She finds the experience very rewarding, as LEAD Southeast High School is very diverse and has a high ELO population, she said.
“I’m really excited to be able to work one-on-one with students and helping to find resources and figure out a plan for what they need in math,” she said.