The decision to attend UNCA was one of the easiest choices I have made. I knew that I wanted to live in the mountains and Asheville offered the perfect environment for my interests both inside and outside the classroom. I started as a freshman at UNCA in 2010 and after my first year I declared my major field of study- Environmental Studies with a concentration in Earth Science. I later decided to add the teacher licensure program to my academic path. I graduated in May 2014 with my B.S. and NC Professional Educators License for Middle Grades Science and Grades 9-12 Science.
The lab equipment I used at UNCA while doing my Undergraduate Research.
One of the most influential experiences I had at UNCA was conducting research through the Environmental Studies Department. My research was focused on the corrosion minerals that form on coin currency when exposed to different environmental conditions. I had the opportunity to work in the lab using the SEM (scanning electron microscope) and other equipment to conduct chemical analyses and identify minerals. It was an eye opening experience to view a world unknown to the naked eye. Creating and analysing these microscopic images revealed a new connection between the disciplines of art and science that later became the focus of my career.
Up close and personal with a coin, using the SEM.
Another experience that was highly influential in my career path was my ARTS 300 class. I took an interdisciplinary class called “The Art of Science and Science of Art” with Dr. Nancy Ruppert. This class helped me explore the deep connection between the areas of art and science. I knew that I wanted to continue my study of the intersection between art and science and when I accepted my first teaching job in Asheville I was given this opportunity.
My first job experience after graduation was as a founding faculty member at a brand new charter school in Asheville- The Franklin School of Innovation. Starting a new school provided me with leadership and collaboration skills that are important in any job. I was fortunate to be able to design my own elective course aligning the Earth/Environmental Science curriculum with the Art curriculum for 9th graders. I credit my ARTS 300 class at UNCA for the foundation of knowledge necessary in designing and teaching this innovative course.
My time spent at UNCA taught me how valuable community engagement is to an authentic educational experience. Advice I offer to current students and soon to be UNCA alumni is to never turn down an opportunity. Every person you meet and experience you have is an open door to new opportunities and you never know where they might lead you. I want to leave you with some words of inspiration that have guided me through the first year of my career…
“Don’t look further for answers: be the solution. Make a promise to stop getting in the way of the blessing that you are. Take a deep breath, remember to have fun, and begin.” — Jonathan Ellerby
I wish you all the best!
My name is Martha Austin. I am currently a junior at UNCA majoring in Mathematics and am getting my teaching licensure. I chose this school specifically for their education program, knowing already that I wanted to teach upper level math. I first began joining different clubs and societies, and becoming friends with all the other math and education majors. It wasn’t until sophomore year that I joined the AVID tutor program, and that’s when I realized how dead set I was on my career path.
The past two semesters I’ve worked at Asheville High School tutoring kids that were in the AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) program. Before this position, I had tutored sporadically for kids at my church growing up, but it wasn’t until this experience that I was able to really work with students in the schools and see how they struggle and learn in the classroom. Every day they taught me something new. Each day the students would bring in a question that they were confused about from one of their other classes. Then, in small groups, we’d ask each other questions to get the student to figure out the answer or understand the main point. These kids were so engaged in their work, bringing in great questions that they were confused about to their group. There were always rough days, such as some days students were just tired or not feeling well or didn’t do their assignment, but even if that happened, the students would still truck through and complete the assignment and help out their peers. I learned so much through this experience. Motivating kids to stay interested and seeing that light bulb go off in them when it finally clicks is what makes me want to become a teacher.
Being in this career path is a lot of work, but it’s so fulfilling. The education classes at UNCA immediately put their students right into the schools, having them do observations and teaching short lessons. The math professors teach you about different theories and how to learn, and different ways to come to a conclusion, which is beneficial for future teachers. If your students don’t understand the problem one way, approach it a different way. For future teachers at UNCA, my advice is to have patience and be flexible. I learned that patience is key, and having a good relationship with your students will help keep them motivated and interested. If you learn some things about each student, such as their interests, and use that to keep them intrigued, then the students are more likely to want to work harder. Each student also learns in a unique way, and being able to adjust your teaching methods to accommodate their needs is beneficial to student learning. If you make the lesson interesting, applicable to their life, and useful to them, then they will do better learning the information. These students, my fellow peers, and coworkers have helped push me to pursue to become a patient and strong teacher. I look forward to what awaits in my future.