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On the evening of December 2, 2021, the English program of Southern Oregon University hosted a panel of Rogue Valley teachers. The panelists had a variety of backgrounds; it was inspiring to hear their teaching journeys, stories and techniques.
Kevin Boringot found his passion for teaching in senior year of high school when he volunteered to work with elementary-level students through an after-school program. This secured his love of teaching, and he pursued his BA in English through SOU shortly thereafter.
After graduating with his BA, Kevin taught English in South Korea for two and a half years through EPIK. EPIK is a program that provides opportunities to native English speakers to teach English in South Korea. To teach abroad, he had to get his TESOL certificate — he did an online program of 120 hours. His time in South Korea gave him a lot of experience with teaching different grade levels because he was able to rotate schools: elementary, middle, and high school. This rotation allowed him to find his niche for teaching high schoolers.
“As soon as you can pull kids into the world of literature, then the world is their oyster.”
— Kevin Boringot
Kevin is now in his second year of the two-year MAT program at SOU to get his teaching license. While working on his license, he secured a job teaching English Language arts to high school students at South Medford High on a restricted license. Due to the teacher shortage that the nation has been facing, restricted licenses are more common now, than they have ever been. A restricted license hires someone who is actively working on their teaching license, and they are usually contracted for a year. As both an MAT student and teacher, the workload can be heavy, but Kevin is getting a lot of support from the high school. He has a mentor teacher who helps him throughout his contract and an instructional coach that sits in on his classes and provides feedback. Although Kevin has had to balance his two roles of being a student and teacher, he has enjoyed his time teaching so far and loves that he can share his passion for literature with his students and potentially convert them to literature-lovers as well. “As soon as you can pull kids into the world of literature, then the world is their oyster. From then on, they can grow.”
John Kellogg graduated from SOU with a BA in English Education and completed his MAT in 2019. He now teaches freshman and junior English at Grants Pass High as well as leadership. John is in his third year of teaching and his love for it has not faded one bit. Like other teachers in the nation, teaching students during the pandemic has been especially difficult due to those who have had to miss school due to COVID. John has been doing his best to accommodate those who can’t be in person: “The hard thing this year has been trying to make sure that I am serving those students who have missed school multiple times to quarantine as well as those in person.” John Kellogg has been making sure to cover all of his bases so that no students are left behind.
He has also been hyper aware that many students may not come from a healthy home life. John has adjusted lots of his teaching materials so that students will not be easily triggered in class. “Every student who has a bad home life has been stuck at home for twelve to eighteen months. There’s a lot of trauma that has been instigated over the past year due to the pandemic, so we have had to be extra cautious in the classroom.” In his English classes, he has stopped himself from asking certain questions that would normally be used for creative writing and has gone as far as changing assignments to avoid triggering students. John strives to make his classroom a safe space for everyone.
Pictured Above: The panel of teachers in action, answering questions from the audience.
Teresa Connelly has been teaching at Grants Pass High School since 1989. She graduated from University of Oregon with a BA in English and endorsements in English and Special Education. This dual endorsement gave her more opportunities for teaching, and it is how she landed her job at Grants Pass High. She currently teaches advanced classes for high school students and dual-credit courses. Dual-credit courses allow high schoolers to receive both high school credits and college credits from SOU.
Like every job, there are going to be good and bad days as a teacher. As the most experienced teacher on the panel, Teresa explains:
“There is a vulnerability of being up in front of those kids. When you try so hard and you think the day is going to be perfect, it still comes as a shock when it isn’t. When I have bad days, it is a habit to internalize it and blame myself for it. Sometimes I must remind myself that it is what it is and it’s no one’s fault. Sometimes it is just odd chemistry between me and the student and talking about it with them can help. Kids have bad days as well.”
Teresa has always had an immense passion for teaching, “I love every day of teaching. I could have retired two years ago, and I just don’t want to because I still love it. It still fills me with purpose and energy, and it is exhausting at times, but it is the most amazing part of my day.” Even with bad days, or even weeks, the good outweighs the bad for Teresa. She is the kind of teacher that inspires students to follow in her footsteps, like Hanah Cronin. Hanah was Teresa’s student throughout her high school years at GPHS and now they’re colleagues!
2021 SOU MAT alum Hanah Cronin teaches a freshman essentials class and a sophomore English class at Grants Pass as well. One obstacle that Hanah has had to overcome is establishing boundaries with her students. Hanah is a younger teacher, so she has had to establish that she is an authority figure despite her age. “I’m not that much older than my kids, so that is kind of hard sometimes. There have been many occasions where I try to be the adult, but they think I will be cool with them because I talk like them or listen to the same music. In those moments, I have to get really serious, so they know that I am not messing around.” Even though she is in her first year of teaching, Hanah has already established a great routine in her classroom and has gained trust from her students. It definitely helps that she is right across the hall from her high school English teacher and mentor, Teresa Connelly!
If you’re looking into teaching, these teachers highly recommend sitting in on a class. It is always helpful to see the candid processes of a classroom and what the day-to-day will look like. Reaching out to local teachers is the first step of exploring this career path.
Helpful SOU links relating to Teresa’s journey:
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