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Navigating Career Goals Through Immersive Teaching Experience

Navigating Career Goals Through Immersive Teaching Experience

As one of her senior year courses at Perkins High School, Emma Sturzinger selected to complete a weekly Academy Experience shadowing a kindergarten teacher to gain firsthand insight into the education field. Throughout the experience, Emma assisted Mrs. Obergefell at Furry Elementary with small groups, formed bonds with students, and came to appreciate the demands placed on teachers.

In her visits to the classroom, Emma’s interactions were guided by her mentor – allowing her to experience the true demands of teaching.

"I shadowed Mrs. O every week, and she was a great mentor for me," Emma says. "I was very involved in the classroom, and I believe she made sure that I got the best experience possible. I worked in small groups with students, I worked one on one, and I also did some prep work for her, so I could get an idea about all the different things she has to prepare for on her own time so that she is prepared during the day."

When asked what she experienced in her visits, Emma shared, "I was expecting the class to be pretty chill and honestly fun and easy, but I was totally wrong. I was right about the fun part, but I did not realize how much work teachers put in and out of the classroom. They do so much for their students and have so much patience so the learning environment is safe and fun for everyone."

While rewarding, Emma also recognized the challenges teachers face.

"Teachers have to have so much patience because they take care of like 20 different 5-year-olds all by themselves. I just feel like teachers are overlooked for the amount of work they put in."

Emma still recalls fondly the connections she built with students.

"One day I was getting ready to leave and one of the little boys came over and gave me a big hug and said, 'Miss Emma, I love Thursdays because those are the days you come to our classroom.' That just made my heart melt." 

For Mrs. Obergefell and her students, Thursdays this school year have been special.

"The students and I loved welcoming Emma into our classroom every Thursday," Mrs. Obergefell said. "She was a huge help and worked really well with the students. They enjoyed working with her so much. They would always cheer when I told them she would be coming in.  I am so glad that Emma had the opportunity to shadow in my classroom and find out that teaching might not be the career for her. She will be fantastic in whatever she chooses to do."

Last school year, Emma also completed an Academy Experience that focused on medicine and health careers. Ultimately, Emma has decided the medical field was a better fit for her interests and skills. As she explained, "I would say the biggest thing that I learned was that I do not want to be a teacher. I love the little kids and I love all the relationships that I made with them, but I just feel like the medical field is calling my name."

For students considering career-focused experiences, Emma stressed keeping an open mind.

"You may hate it, or you may love it, but take advantage of every opportunity you are given because these people that you shadow are professionals and having these connections early can help a ton in the future. No matter what happens, the outcome is good," she advised. 

Immersive programs like Academy Experience let students test drive potential careers through real-world glimpses. By sparking self-reflection, they enable students to fine-tune academic and career trajectories before reaching college. For Emma and so many others, it provides invaluable clarity.

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