University provides alumna passport to break down language barriers

Erin Westerman sits on a colorful rug in her classroom surrounded by her third grade students.

In a class of her own

Erin Westerman, MAT 18, credits her Quinnipiac education with helping her succeed in her first full-time teaching position.

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rin Westerman, MAT ’18, has spent the last 18 months building up students and building a future.

She graduated from the School of Education with a Master of Arts in Teaching and began her career teaching a third-grade dual language program in Windham, Connecticut.

Westerman credits her Quinnipiac education for developing the tools, the classroom confidence and the networks to thrive in her own classroom.

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“The biggest selling point for me was the real-world experience you get here,” said Westerman, who grew up in eastern Connecticut, not far from her new school. “Learning about being a teacher is so much different than actually doing it and managing your own classroom.”

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After spending last year as a substitute teacher — different classroom assignments taught her to be flexible and adaptable — Westerman spent her final year as a co-teacher at Side by Side Charter School in South Norwalk, Connecticut. She was one of four Quinnipiac students assigned there for the 2017-18 school year.

For a long time, Westerman figured she would go to graduate school in the Boston area where she earned her bachelor’s degree. But after attending an open house at the School of Education, Westerman changed her mind.

“Sometimes, your Plan B is such a better fit for you than your Plan A,” Westerman said. “The universe has a funny way of telling you that sometimes.”

The universe spoke to Westerman again last spring.

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Erin Westerman kneels next to a desk of a young boy to help him with his math as he writes with a pencil.

The language of learning

Erin Westerman now teaches in a third grade bilingual program in Windham, Connecticut.

Being Peruvian, Westerman knew she wanted to incorporate Spanish into her teaching and studied it as her minor while an undergraduate, in addition to traveling to Spain and Costa Rica. So, she researched bilingual programs in Connecticut and found a shining example at North Windham Elementary School.

Westerman visited the school to learn more about its bilingual program. School officials told her there was an opening in the Compañeros Program, where students are taught in both English and Spanish.

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Erin Westerman stands in front of her class who are sitting on the ground and encourages a female student who is standing and reading off the board.

The perfect fit

Westerman says her hand-on classroom experience at Quinnipiac along with her personal interest in Spanish, made the right fit for her current position.

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“The demands of a first-year teacher have been made so much more manageable by the experience I gained at Quinnipiac while learning to juggle a full-time internship in a school with full-time coursework.”