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CHED alumna Aubrey Bennett
Elementary teacher education alumna Aubrey Bennett with students from her first-grade class in Unalaska, Alaska

UD alumna Aubrey Bennett teaching in Alaska

Photo provided by Aubrey Bennett

CEHD prepares elementary education majors for challenging career opportunities

As an elementary teacher education senior from Bear, Delaware, University of Delaware alumna Aubrey Bennett expected to pursue her first teaching position in her home state or the surrounding region. Less than a year later, Bennett surprised her family and friends by accepting a position as a first-grade teacher in Unalaska City School District in Unalaska, Alaska.

“During my second semester of student teaching, another student teacher mentioned that she was offered a job by a school district in Alaska and that many districts there needed teachers,” Bennett said. “I’ve always wanted to travel, so the idea of living and working somewhere like Alaska was exciting to me. I spent hours researching different school districts, climates, populations, salaries, and benefits. It was exhausting, but I was soon offered a job by two different districts and accepted the position at Unalaska City School District, one of the top-rated districts in the state.”

Bennett now works with a diverse population of students and families in the surrounding community, which has been a challenging, but rewarding experience.

“There is a huge English language learner (ELL) population in the school and the surrounding community,” Bennett said. “Over half of the population here is Filipino, and there are over 18 different languages spoken in our district. I have students, for example, who speak Tagalog, Spanish, and Samoan. Since I teach first-grade, a few of my students at the beginning of the year barely knew any English.”

Though Bennett did not have much experience working with ELL populations, she received support from her school community, especially her principal, Joanna Hinderberger.

“I’ve incorporated many new strategies and it’s amazing how fast my students learn,” Bennett said. “For example, we do a lot of work with vocabulary using visual techniques. I’ve also learned to talk differently at school. I’m more careful with my word choice. I told one of my ELL kids, ‘You rock!’ and they said, ‘I’m not a rock, Miss Bennett.’ Language is a tricky thing!”

Despite the challenges of working in a new environment, Bennett said her experience in the ETE program prepared her well, citing her early field placements and student teaching experiences.

“I am grateful that UD gave me so many opportunities to actually work in a classroom with students,” Bennett said. “Spending 12 weeks in student teaching placements was especially beneficial. I am also very grateful for Vicki Goettel, my student teaching advisor. It was helpful having professors and advisors that were actually teachers earlier in their careers.”

She encourages current ETE students to explore opportunities that may be outside of their comfort zone.

“Don’t be afraid to teach a grade level that you’ve never worked with before,” Bennett said. “During college, I mostly worked with upper elementary and middle school students. My spring student teaching placement was in a second grade room, but first grade is very different. I’m not just teaching English, science, math, and social studies. I am teaching social behavior, how to tie your shoes, how to hold a pencil, how to use a tissue, and how to pull up a zipper. It has been a wonderful learning experience.”

Bennett will continue to teach first grade in the Unalaska City School District for the 2018-2019 academic year and is looking forward to the adventures to come.

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