Molly McKay, MEd CandidateExperienced Educators
Molly McKay never had an interest in grad school, despite persistent prodding by her friends. But, after discovering Antioch University New England's Educating for Sustainability concentration, the only one of its kind in the country, she immediately applied for admission.
"Grad school found me," she said. "I was reading a green guide where I saw an ad for the EFS program, and my jaw dropped! I thought, 'No way that there's a master's in Education with this focus!' It was definitely AUNE's program that drew me to grad school rather than any desire of my own."
Giving Kids a Voice
For the past five years, Molly has been employed by Berwick Academy, an independent, co-educational day school for students in grades K-12 in South Berwick, Maine. Passionate about social justice and the environment, she currently teaches fifth grade, serves as dean of students, and is founder and student advisor of the Middle School Green Committee. In all that she does, she strives to empower her students.
"AUNE believes in the same principle as I, the importance of the student voice, making sure that the classroom experience isn't just about the teacher. It has to be a two-way street," she said. "So much of what goes on in the classroom is the voice of the students."
Molly always wanted to be a middle-school teacher. After earning her undergrad degree in sociology with a minor in education from St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York, she became an administrator at a private school in Michigan. Missing the classroom, she accepted a position in the Bahamas, teaching Bahamian history for several years at the private Deep Creek Middle School in South Eleuthera. On her return to the States, she was hired by Berwick Academy to teach seventh grade.
"I started my AUNE program as a seventh-grade teacher, but was asked by my school to switch from grade seven to grade five this year," she said. "One of the principles of EFS that really resonates with me is the importance of a teacher to be flexible. Change is what makes teachers stay on their toes."
Putting Theory into Practice
For Molly, what distinguishes her EFS program is that she can immediately put into action what she learns in her coursework.
"I'm truly impressed with my AUNE program, which is designed for teachers with classrooms," she said. "My cohort of twelve meets on campus for two and a half weeks in the summer, and then we go back to our classrooms in Oregon, Virginia, Maine and wherever to put into practice what we learned. Our own classrooms serve as learning laboratories. Some people stop teaching for a year or two to go to grad school, leaving their laboratory behind."
During her first year at AUNE, Molly took two classes with ED faculty member David Sobel. Coincidentally, Berwick Academy instituted a new policy requiring all teachers to host an activity during school. Molly offered fort building, based on David's design principles, and geared it for eight kids. Its popularity far exceeded her expectations.
"Forty-six students signed up for it, so I ended up taking a dozen," she said. "Consequently, I've offered it every trimester, and it continues to be among the top choices for kids. It's a fabulous example of what I learned in my EFS program."
Molly currently is working on her master's project, which focuses on integrating EFS into community service for middle-school students. She's grateful to the colleague who first gave her the green guide where she discovered AUNE.
"I can visibly see a change in the way I approach my classroom," she said. "The program makes you step out of your comfort zone and try different approaches. That's made me a more effective teacher."
"AUNE stretched me and continues to stretch me through engagement. It forces me to engage with curriculum," she said. "AUNE definitely turns out great teachers."