Miaja Lopez ’18, from Lakeport, Calif., just finished her Early Childhood Education degree this past winter term and is already teaching in Willamina. We had the chance to chat with her recently about her time at WOU.
Why did you choose WOU?
I chose WOU after looking at many different schools. I loved how close and accessible everything was. I had taken a long break from school and the process of returning and signing up for a new college can get a little daunting. The staff at WOU made me feel so welcome and were incredibly helpful when I was exploring my school options. Also, I loved that I could get my degree and my teaching license at the same time.
Why did you choose the Early Childhood education program?
I chose the ECE program because I have always been interested in teaching young children. I taught preschool for a few years and loved it but I knew I wanted to work in the public school system with children that were a little older.
How do you feel this degree will help you with your career?
This degree has already helped me so much and I haven’t even received it yet! After hearing that I was nearly finished with my teaching degree, I was approached by a local school to fulfill a long term sub position in a kindergarten class. It was a huge step for me but I made the leap and had so much support. I felt that the program really prepared me for my first year of teaching. My goal is to continue teaching early elementary at Willamina.
What advice do you have for anyone considering this program?
Do it!! I have advised many people to enroll in this program. If I were to do this over again I would try and work in a school setting while completing this program. A great thing about this program is that they tailor the course schedule to help accommodate for people that are already working in a school setting by providing night and weekend classes.
Also, talk with your professors and other students. The professors in the ECE program really want their students to succeed and offer so much additional support if you just ask and show your commitment to the program. Talking and working with other students was a huge help for me as well. Being able to talk with people that are having similar experiences and challenges provided a huge amount of support.
What has been your favorite class so far?
My two favorite classes at WOU have been ED450 Methods for Classroom Management with Dr. Cindy Ryan and ED374 Teaching Writing in Elementary with Professor Jen Schulze. The classroom management course was so focused on how to build a classroom community. That course taught me that nothing is more important than establishing a safe, fun and nurturing environment and being in my first year of teaching I can confirm that is so true! Ed374 was incredibly helpful and inspiring. We worked with a local elementary school and were able to take the things that we were learning each week and utilize them in a classroom. Nothing makes your studies seem more relevant than being able to apply it first hand. In Ed374 the assignments were so creative and helped me foster my love for writing while at the same time learning how to teach children to develop their own love for writing, too.
What has been one of the most challenging parts of the program?
The last year of the program you are taking a full load of classes, student teaching (40 hours a week at times), completing your EdTPA project and in many students cases also working a full time job. I can honestly say that I’ve never worked so hard or been so dedicated to something. When I look back on the last two terms I feel so accomplished when I look at the workload and challenges that I faced.
Has your work in the Early Childhood program changed your views on education or how you view being an educator?
One of my favorite things about the Early Childhood program is how realistic our professors are. They are all experienced teachers in the field and have taught us that teaching isn’t just about academics. There is so much more that goes on in your classroom each day. The ECE program taught me that I’m not just a teacher but a community builder, a child advocate, a support for parents and a part of a team
Last but not least, what makes WOU fun?
The professors at WOU make this college. As a new teacher I feel that I have an entire team of mentors behind me. Whether I need to vent about a tough situation, get advice, share in my successes or get some creative teaching ideas I know I have a great group of friends and professionals to turn to. The relationships that I have created at WOU are what makes WOU so fun!