Compiled and edited by Natalee Huguez and Vicki Louk Balint | June 27, 2018
Arizona State University graduate Natalee Huguez, AzAEYC’s 2017 Rhian Evans Allvin and Joshua J. Allen Scholarship awardee, talks about her ASU student teaching placement, her career plans post graduation, and coping with an enormously difficult personal challenge midway through the academic year.
Talk about your ASU student teaching placement in the classroom for the first part of this year. What did your students teach you?
For my first semester of my senior year at ASU, I was placed in a General Ed 2nd grade classroom in Paradise Valley. We only had 14 2nd graders which allowed me to get to know each student personally at a quicker rate. We had a lot of fun in that classroom! I learned so much throughout the entire semester. One of the most eye-opening experiences occurred throughout the parent-teacher conference process. I learned a lot about my students and their families during each conference. That allowed me to better relate and understand my students.
And your second semester student teaching placement?
The second semester of my senior year, I was placed at the same school in a Structured K-3 Academic Autism room. My experience with these 8 students, my mentor teacher, and the 2 aids was so positive. This placement was the perfect example of a organized, structured, and positive environment for students to learn in. Each child was so uniquely different and brought so much character to the classroom. Spending my final months of college in this room solidified my decision to work in an elementary ed position post-graduation.
How did you feel about the second half of the year compared to the first part? What kind of personal growth did you experience?
Both of my placements were very positive experiences, but my second student teaching placement provided me with a great example of how to run a successful special education classroom. My mentor provided me with very useful tips and strategies for my future career choice. Throughout my senior year I grew immensely as a future educator and as a person. I became more confident in the classroom and in my ability to collaborate with school staff and administration.
As you look back on the year, what do you consider as a major accomplishment?
My biggest accomplishment was successfully completing my second and last semester of college. There were several moments when I did not feel capable because of the challenges I had going on in my personal life. On Christmas Eve, during Winter Break, my father passed away (the one who attended the ceremony) and it was the hardest experience I have had to go through. It is something that I still struggle with incredibly, because he was my biggest supporter. However, I believe that I would not have gotten through my final semester had it not been for my supportive colleagues, my inspiring mentor teachers, and the amazing students that I got to spend so much time with.
You were awarded the Rhian Evans Allvin and Joshua J. Allen Scholarship in Fall, 2017. How did this scholarship support you during the last two semesters and your student teaching placement?
This scholarship was incredibly helpful for me in competing my final year at ASU. I graduated with very few student loans due to this scholarship. I will be able to succeed in my teaching job in the fall with little financial burden from attending college.
How did you feel about graduating, and how did you celebrate?
My semester flew by so quickly, and before I knew it, graduation was right around the corner. It was a relief to finally be done with my undergrad, but even more of a relief to be graduating with a job already secured.
I tried to enjoy my graduation day as much as possible, but I found it very difficult to without my father being there. I was lucky enough to have lots of family and friends there to support me though.
What are your plans for next year? Describe where you will work and why you decided to accept that position.
In early March I interviewed for a position. When I left the school I was so pleased with how it went and really wanted the position. I was ecstatic to receive a call from the principal only two hours later. I’d interviewed on a Monday and was told I would hear back on Friday because they have several other interviews to complete, but they called me back that same Monday. It felt great that they had enough confidence in me to cancel their other interviews for the same position.
In the Fall of 2018 I will be teaching in the Mesa Public Schools District in a 2nd-3rd grade Special Learning Disability room! This position is exactly what I wished for. I wanted to work with 2nd or 3rd grade students at a Title I school and all of the staff and I wanted a special education position. I am really looking forward to it!
Read more about Natalee’s early childhood education path from our interview with her in Fall 2017.
AzAEYC’s Rhian Evans Allvin and Joshua J. Allen Scholarship acknowledges the outstanding service of early childhood professionals by recognizing leadership qualities and commitment to early childhood education and public policies that support the well being of young children. Applications for the 2018 award are now being accepted. Deadline is September 9, 2018.