Meredith Mahoney, a senior from Jacksonville, Fla., grew up knowing she wanted to teach. Her mom was an elementary school teacher in Jacksonville and Mahoney had a passion for teaching her classmates in school.
“I love kids and I’ve always done well with kids,” she explains. “I’ve also always learned better by teaching other people so therefore I thought it might be a good idea to go into a major where I learn to professionally teach other people."
Coming to Auburn, Mahoney immediately began the long process of getting into the elementary education major.
For the first several semesters, students hoping to major in elementary education must take introductory classes that serve as pre-requisites for the elementary education major application. Next, students participate in a weeklong pre-teaching session in which they shadow an elementary school teacher. Lastly, there is an application process that includes an interview.
Mahoney was accepted into the major her junior year. Once in, Mahoney explains she was placed in a cohort with 20 to 25 other elementary education students. “Unfortunately in my major though,” she adds, “it’s usually all girls."
Students stay in their same cohorts until graduation and they take the same classes together. Cohorts are given class schedules that consist of 15 to 18 hours a semester and are assigned by the College of Education.
Mahoney was first placed in an elementary classroom the first semester she was in the program. Students start off shadowing a teacher once a day and then move up to making lesson plans and teaching students.
"Once you start to write lesson plans you actually get to feel like you’re a teacher,” says Mahoney.
As seniors, Mahoney and her cohort now teach three days a week in local Lee County elementary schools through the elementary education practicum. They also write and teach their own lesson plans once or twice a week and attend classes on campus another two days a week.
After graduation, Mahoney hopes to teach in Malawi in South Africa for a month through an Auburn University program. Then she plans to move back to Jacksonville to get settled and hopefully teach in the elementary school she attended when she was younger.
“I love elementary education because it’s a fulfilling process in which every day is something new, and it makes you laugh because the kids are so sweet,” says Mahoney. “It’s very demanding, but at the same time we’re doing what we love so it’s a lot of fun.”