From the moment education majors start their career at UofSC, they start getting in-the-classroom experience. For Diana, that meant observing classrooms one day a week and writing a few lesson plans. She continued observing classrooms throughout her freshman and sophomore years.
After their sophomore year, education students like Diana enter the professional program, which is three semesters long. The first semester, Diana had a practicum and have one full day in a classroom per week, which eased her into teaching.
The following semester, Diana had her first internship. She was placed at an elementary school and spent two days per week in the classroom. The final semester is full time student teaching, where Diana spent every day in the classroom. This was her favorite semester because she learned so much from seeing kids every day.
"I got to see all the theories and principles I learned about in my classes come to life," she said.
During this semester, Diana taught one subject per week and transitioned to teaching completely by herself for two weeks. The transition gave her a real experience of being a teacher.
Diana appreciates the approach that professors in the education program take to teaching.
"We focus a lot on equity and culturally appropriate practices in the classroom, which are things that are not talked about as much as they should be," she said.
Enhancing the experience
While Diana was learning about teaching kids in the classroom, she complemented her education with the many extracurricular activities she has been involved in.
"When I got onto campus my freshman year, I knew I wanted to open myself up," she said. "To do that, I was going to need to search for leadership experiences and push myself out of my comfort zone."
She became president of the Women's Quad residence hall, joined student government's freshman council, and was a Pillars XM. Each of these experiences helped her develop her teaching style in a different way.
She continued her involvement in these organizations by becoming a resident mentor in Women's Quad, being the adviser for freshman council, and being student director for Pillars for Carolina, which she calls her proudest accomplishment as a student.
"I took a lot of things and came full circle with them," she said.
Diana also took advantage of the College of Education's study abroad opportunities and completed a Maymester study abroad trip to Reggio Emilia, Italy, to learn about the Reggio Emilia approach to education.
The Reggio Emilia approach focuses on the individual ways children learn and express themselves. Diana took ideas from this child-centered system and implemented them into her teaching style at home.
"It's the first thing that any potential employer asks me about when they see my resume, which is really awesome because it definitely sets me apart from other people," she said.
When Diana reached her senior year, she decided to pursue Graduation with Leadership Distinction. She had already met most of the requirements through her involvement on campus, so her next concern was putting together her portfolio. She was able to take lessons from her experiences throughout college and tie them in with her major.
"I've learned through all of these experiences in different levels of education that there are certain things that every student needs from their education," she said. According to her portfolio, these things are differentiated instruction, hands-on experiences, and mentorships. Diana said putting together her portfolio and presenting it at Discover USC were helpful in ways she hadn't anticipated, such as filling out applications or being interviewed.
"It really gave me the ability to reflect on my experiences in a way that I hadn't before, in a way that I probably wouldn't have thought to on my own," she said.
Diana will take these lessons with her in her future career, which she hopes will be teaching in the Washington, D.C. area.
I am South Carolina.