Secondary Education

Gaughan and Jack Experience Woodside Priory School

During spring break, Education Professor Terri Greene Henning accompanied five Saint Anselm College Secondary Education students as they visited Woodside Priory School, a Catholic Benedictine middle and high school in Portola Valley, California, connected to Saint Anselm Abbey. Among those students were Colleen Gaughan ’18 and Randy Jack ’18, both history and secondary education double majors. One Thing After Another asked them to share some thoughts about their experience.

The trip began on Saturday March 4, with a flight to San Francisco and two days of sightseeing. Students visited the Golden Gate Bridge, the University of San Francisco, the Ferry Building, the Pacific Ocean, and Alcatraz. Randy Jack said of the sightseeing, “Being a history major provided a unique perspective, because it gave Colleen and me an opportunity to appreciate the rich history of the city. Colleen and I freaked out when we saw Alcatraz for the first time! Seeing the Golden Gate Bridge was an absolute bucket list item for me so it was an incredible moment when I first laid my eyes on it. ”

On Sunday, the group made their way to Portola Valley and the Woodside Priory School. The group was housed on campus for the week, encouraging an inclusive and immersive environment. Each day, the group attended mass in the morning, observed classes with students, attended sporting events, and explored the campus. Both Gaughan and Jack were placed in classrooms to observe and teach lessons.

Colleen Gaughan, who is passionate about both history and English, was placed in an English classroom for the first few days and attended a middle school US History class later in the week. Colleen said of her experience: “I think being a history major really made a difference specifically in the history classrooms. It was great to see how they were teaching history to students, especially middle school children. In the middle school US History class, they were listening to the Broadway musical Hamilton and using that to keep students engaged in the material. I think sometimes it’s difficult to get students interested when they think history is just lectures about dead people. So making history fun and come alive was helpful for the students. I think that being a history major, I was able to recall what made me love history; I saw that same passion in the students and how they were being taught.”

Randy Jack was placed almost exclusively in a Social Studies classroom and was able to teach lessons in a US History class. Jack called the experience “fantastic” and discussed how “being a history major absolutely plays a big part in how I would like to teach. While we learn a great deal about the particular strategies in our education classes, taking history classes at Saint A’s has been important in informing how I want to utilize the strategies I’ve learned in a historical contexts.” Gaughan shares these sentiments: “In my future history classes . . . I want students to understand concepts and how events relate to each other, rather than being nitpicky about memorization of dates. The focus of my classes will be making sure students can apply what they are learning in their history class to what they are seeing in the world. Understanding where we’ve been can help inform us on where we will go.”

When asked what moments of the trip stood out to them, Gaughan and Jack both referred to their time teaching in classrooms. For Jack, “seeing the students be so engaged and laughing and having fun while learning was a good reminder of exactly why I want to be a teacher.” For Gaughan, the spiritual value of the trip was as important as the educational value. There are three Benedictine monks from Saint Anselm Abbey at the school, and the Saint Anselm students had dinner with them one night. Gaughan said, “Since there are only three monks, there was room for real discussion. Father Martin is an alum of Saint Anselm, and he used to live here before he was asked to move out to California, so it was interesting hearing his stories about how the school has changed over the years. . . . It was also very cool from a historical perspective to hear the stories of Father Pius and Father Maurus, who were two of the Hungarian monks who escaped communism by coming to the United States and eventually set up the monastic community at Priory. That dinner was one of the most memorable events of my trip.”

Their experiences at the Woodside Priory School confirmed both Gaughan and Jack’s decision to teach history. Jack admits, “My decision to become a history teacher was one that I pondered for a long time. It started out with my love for history; growing up I always loved talking about history. Eventually I decided I would love to be able to get a job using my love for history, and I figured education would be a good fit. However, when I finally entered the classroom as an educator my sophomore year, I realized it was so much more than that. I realized that being able to work with students and help them develop their own appreciation for history was equally important to me.”

For Gaughan, teaching history is a way to initiate a new generation of informed students. As she put it, “I love how history informs us of the past and helps us to understand the present. I think that by studying the people of the past we can understand what worked, what hasn’t, and what we might want to try. Understanding cause and effect is a pivotal part of understanding the past and the present, and I think that it’s a skill that is really important to develop and one I want to foster in my students.”

NOTE: In the photo above, Gaughan is third from left while Jack is fourth from left; both are holding the banner. Professor Terri Greene Henning is far left. 


Schirripa Obtains Summer Internship at Northfield Mount Hermon School

Pete Schirripa

Pete Schirripa ’15 (Lexington, MA) just landed a paid summer internship at Northfield Mount Hermon School in Gill, Massachusetts. Since a number of students in the secondary education program are History majors, we thought we would share his experiences. Such opportunities are out there, and it would be great if our majors could take advantage of them more frequently.

One Thing after Another had the following exchange with Pete.

Q: What’s the name of the program you applied to, and what will you have to do?

A: For the upcoming summer, I have been accepted to the Teaching Intern Program at Northfield Mount Hermon School, a preparatory high school in Gill, Massachusetts. During my six weeks at NHM, I will be working as the College Prep Program U.S. history teaching intern. In addition to planning curriculum, teaching lessons, facilitating extra-help sessions, and designing assessments, I will be coaching soccer and serving as an advisor for 6-8 students. Finally, I will supervise evening activities in the residence halls and organize nightly study halls as well as recreational activities.

Q: How did you find out about this program? What was the application process like?

A: I knew I wanted to acquire more teaching experience this summer. That being said, I looked online to see which preparatory schools hired teaching interns for the summer. Though most of the local prep schools offered teaching positions, NMH was one of the few that allowed interns to teach U.S. history. I was excited by this opportunity and decided to begin the application process.

In order to be considered for the position at NHM, I had to fill out an application, send in an official transcript, submit two faculty recommendations, and write an essay explaining why I am interested in teaching and what my career goals are in secondary education. After completing this initial application process, I had a thirty-minute phone interview with the program director. During the interview, I was asked to expand on my résumé and define my teaching philosophy.

Q: How did you get interested in teaching high school history? Ideally, what kind of career would like in secondary education?

A: To be honest, I really disliked my first couple of years of high school and didn’t perform particularly well. Throughout this period, I also despised history. In fact, I found it pointless to memorize dates, study wars that pre-date my deceased great-grandfather, and write dreadfully boring DBQs. Much to my surprise, my sophomore-year world history teacher totally changed my opinion of history. Unlike my previous teachers, Mr. Lingley was an amazing storyteller. I still remember him standing at the front of the room explaining how Rasputin just would not die. Incorporating suspenseful pauses throughout his lecture, Mr. Lingley had the ability to keep the class entertained at 8:00 AM every morning. In addition to telling interesting stories, Mr. Lingley made his students question why we even bother to study history. In other words, Mr. Lingley would expect his students to connect the material from his class to current events. After taking this course, I became very interested in the study of history. More important, I decided I wanted to help future students have the same experience I had. With inspiration from Mr. Lingley, I became interested in teaching and knew I wanted to pursue this ambition in college.

Though I am excited to be a history teacher, I eventually want to be a school principal.  Through my education classes at Saint Anselm and my extracurricular activities, I have become interested in educational policy and would someday like to oversee curriculum decisions and school policy.

 Q: If you had to give once piece of advice to a roomful of freshman history majors who wanted to teach, what would it be?

A: To any freshman who is interested in teaching history, I recommend that you start by taking a variety of history classes that cover topics with which you are not particularly familiar. I say this for two reasons. First off, it is important to develop a strong content knowledge. After all, you are teaching students about world history, European history, U.S. history etc, so you should not be limited to a specific subject area. Secondly, it is important to take classes that you are not familiar with because it allows you to practice overcoming challenges. Without question, an important part of educating is motivating students to overcome obstacles and pushing them to reach your high expectations. If you do not have practice doing this yourself, it is going to be very difficult to teach kids how to do it. Finally, I would tell you that it is important to enjoy learning. Without having a zeal for learning, it is difficult to instill a passion for learning in your future students.  After all, turning your students into life-long learners is your ultimate aim. A good place to start is developing this passion in your history classes at Saint Anselm.

In short, I would say focus on your courses and try to learn as much as you can through reading, taking challenging classes, talking to professors, attending events with guest speakers, and observing the world around you. If you can acquire this desire to learn, everything else will certainly fall into place.