Katharine Plato was the most recent English student teacher at Walpole High School (WHS), who both taught and observed in a variety of classes with two different teachers. She is currently in school at UMass Boston and hopes to receive her Masters degree in English. Plato got her bachelor’s degree in theater arts UMass Boston as well. Since high school, Plato has studied English and literature, which allowed her to become an English teacher in the making.
“I fell in love with literature when I was in high school, and it was then when I realized that the world was available at my fingertips,” Plato said.
Based on her observations with a variety of teachers and classes, Plato saw many similarities and differences between herself and her mentor teachers. One of the greatest similarities between Plato and the English faculty at Walpole High would have to be their love for literature. Plato was genuinely interested in the material she taught, and she hoped during her time at WHS to enhance other student’s love for English and literature as well. Plato also believed that teachers may have their own styles of teaching certain material, but they can all be unified when realizing that their students are the priority.
“It’s wonderful to see how students and faculty interact with each other, and how students learn in this environment,” Plato said. “I’m like a sponge, and I’m trying to learn all that I can from my mentor teachers.”
Plato believes that student teaching was very beneficial for herself because worked with high school students in large or small groups, and even one-on-one. Also, the mentor teachers can benefit from having a student teacher in their classroom because they can have access to current information provided by Plato. She believed that her timing could be a challenge, due to the fact that she began student teaching mid-year. Plato observed classes once a week during the first semester of school, and then she came to school every day. The overall challenge for Plato may have been that students did not know her as well as their other teachers.
“I think that developing relationships with the students is the most important part, but it can take some time,” Plato said.
McKenzie Gould was one of Plato’s mentor teachers, and together, they taught two sophomore CP1 classes. Gould enjoyed having Plato in her classes because the two discussed different strategies for their students. Having a student teacher also made Gould more aware of her own teaching styles, and even helped with lesson planning. Plato even chose the play that Gould’s classes are reading, called “Fences,” so the students can be exposed to different resources. Overall, Gould and Plato worked together to strategize and develop teaching methods that engaged their students while effectively teaching the material.
“It has been really positive to have two adults in the classroom, especially when having a class of 27 students,” Gould said about Plato’s impact in the classroom. “I think it’s really nice for the students to hear different perspectives.”
Christine Giblin was Plato’s other mentor teacher, and together they taught one junior CP1 class, and Plato also observed one CP2 class. Plato observed in both of these classes, but did more teaching within the CP2 class. Giblin believed that having a student teacher in the classroom was very beneficial for the students, as well as the mentor teachers. Giblin admitted that working with Plato makes her more conscientious of her actions because it was easy to let small things slide, such as organization. Some faculty members in the English department interviewed Plato before welcoming her into Walpole High School. Even though an interview is not a necessary step in the student teaching program, the teachers felt that it was important to select a student teacher who would work well with their students. Overall, Giblin felt positive effects from having Plato in her classes especially because she had a very strong content knowledge and knew her material.
“Ms. Plato did a really good job in class, and she’s become another body in the room that can answer questions, and even help with areas of difficulty,” Giblin said. “Having her can be a real benefit.”
Lauren Culliton, English Department Head, believes that one of the school’s responsibilities is having student teachers and educating more than just students. The English teachers at Walpole High School work very close together which allows them to be a strong department. Introducing another faculty member into the department adds to the collaborative nature and allows the department to expand their knowledge. She saw positive effects for not only the student teacher, but the mentor teacher as well because they have to explore their own practice and think about their actions.
“We’re not going to be here forever, so it’s our job as teachers to teach the next generation,” Culliton said about her interest in having more student teachers in the future.
Plato enjoyed learning under the teachers at WHS. As for the future, her overall goal is to teach English at a high school level. Throughout student teaching, Plato hoped to gain the overall experience that her mentor teachers have in school everyday. She believes that every high school has its own great opportunities and places to grow as a teacher, so she is not limited to a specific setting when it comes to finding a high school that is right for her. The student teaching experience has allowed Plato to further her knowledge and start a career in teaching in the future.
“World literature has just enriched my life, so I wanted to study that and contribute to the education process,” Plato said about her future career.