Student makes the world her classroom

November 12, 2021

Headshot of Erika Yaverski

For Erika Yaverski ’22, a global perspective is intrinsic in learning to be a great teacher.

Yaverski always had a passion for history but working at a summer camp for disabled children showed her how much she enjoyed working with the youth community. Teaching would be the perfect opportunity to embrace both, said Yaverski.

Quinnipiac’s Dual-Degree Master of Arts in Teaching program offers an intensive five-year program that equips graduates with a bachelor’s, master’s and a teaching degree in secondary education.

“MAT is such a great program if you know you want to be a teacher. We’re going to be teaching sooner than everyone else, especially with the field hours we need to complete to graduate,” said Yaverski.

Yaverski is fulfilling her field hours at North Haven High School, assisting in a sophomore non-Western global issues class. Although student teachers traditionally only survey during field hours, Yaverski’s expertise in the course matter encouraged social studies teacher Kathryn Monigan to offer a more hands-on experience.

“I plan half the lesson and then the teacher steps in. Students are writing an essay about Israel and Palestine relations. I taught them to create a thesis statement; now they’re conferencing with Ms. Monigan about the thesis; and then I’ll conference with them to help find sources for the essays,” said Yaverski.

Though unconventional, Yaverski says her Quinnipiac professors encourage her to try as much in the classroom as she’s comfortable with.

The MAT program offers opportunities for students to authentically understand a truly inclusive classroom. In 2020, Yaverski traveled to Guatemala to observe a classroom of middle-school aged children for ten days. While she doesn’t speak Spanish, visiting French students were able to help translate, as Yaverski speaks French conversationally from spending time in Europe during high school.

Some of the Guatemalan students were indigenous and didn’t speak Spanish fluently. This kaleidoscope of learning levels in one classroom illuminated the idea of inclusion for Yaverski.

“I realized how important it is to make learning and the classroom accessible to all students, regardless of culture and language; how important it is for teachers to go outside of comfort zone and connect with students,” she said.

Yaverski is using her independent French studies to enrich her understanding of diversity and inclusion in the classroom and beyond.  In January 2022, she begins a virtual internship with Omprakash, an international non-profit focused on social change. Yaverski will work with an organization in Cameroon on grant writing and research.

The group works to teach French to indigenous students who grew up speaking English after the country’s decolonization. Yavernski will assist in growing the organization and finding new avenues of funding.

To prepare for the internship, Yavernski is working with a Paris-based French-Canadian mentor to elevate her formal French speech, polish mannerisms and understand Cameroonian culture.

“All of these experiences are great resume boosters. The chances for engagement and research are helping me imagine the trajectory around developing my career. Quinnipiac helped me find opportunities I never would have found on my own,” said Yavernski.

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