Meet bilingual kindergarten teacher Peggy McQuaid '10
As an aspiring teacher, how did you choose your major at Connecticut College?
I knew I wanted to study elementary education when I came to Connecticut College. To become certified, you take education courses but have a separate major. Some choose human development; secondary teachers usually choose the discipline they will teach. I chose to major in American studies because I was interested in issues of race and ethnicity, which became my concentration. Through American studies, I was able to examine these issues by looking at literature, history, sociology, critical theory and many other varied disciplines. It allowed me to take courses I was interested in, with professors I wanted to work with. Our class discussions centered on race and ethnicity, but because my classmates and I were all studying other disciplines at the same time (education, economics, public health, etc.), we were all able to contribute something different to the dialogue.
For you, what were the biggest advantages of studying education at Connecticut College?
For me, education is not just a job but something I feel called to do. When I came to Connecticut College, I had lots of ideas about justice and equality, but was completely unaware of the education department's focus on critical pedagogy. When I started to take classes and further my understanding of education as a vehicle of social change, I felt like my ideas were reinforced by what I was reading and learning and that my awareness was further broadened. I am very interested in issues surrounding urban education and English language learners, and the New London community is a great place to learn about these issues.
Tell us about your semester as a volunteer at a school in Honduras.
I knew I wanted to study education in a more global context and was interested in learning Spanish after a summer camp job with several English language learners. Because I took five AP classes in high school, I had enough college credits to take a semester off to volunteer in Honduras at a bilingual elementary school. It was a great experience and really prepared me for student teaching. It also gave me an entirely different context to view Latin American immigration, especially as it relates to education.
Describe your teaching experiences.
After I graduated from Connecticut College in 2010, I moved back to Honduras planning to teach kindergarten, but a week after I got there, they told me I was going to be the "interim" principal. I served as principal for three years, which was an amazing experience (and huge challenge!). After three years, I knew I wanted to get back in the classroom and expand my knowledge as a classroom teacher.
I currently teach kindergarten at the Dual Immersion Puentes Program at the Regional Multicultural Magnet School here in New London. After dealing with the sometimes-stressful job of being an administrator, it is wonderful to be able to be with the students day after day, seeing those little "light bulb" moments. Right now, I want to continue working in the classroom and honing my craft as a classroom teacher.
What are your career plans?
Within five years, I plan to pursue a graduate degree in bilingual education or urban education, and later down the line, I would like to return to administration and perhaps become a professor of education.