Student teaching experience quickly leads to teaching position in Texas for ’23 graduate

Roger Coda
teacher in the classroom with students

Elizabeth Herman interacting with her first grade students in an Orange Grove Elementary School classroom in Texas.

“I felt being in that place gave me a sense of knowing that I found a place that might be in the future for me because I working with multiple teachers, not just my specific cooperating teacher, and that gave me more of a vision.”

Call it either a hunch or a sixth sense, but that’s how SUNY Fredonia alumnus Elizabeth Herman describes the student teaching experience she had in a large urban school district in the Houston area in the Spring 2023 semester.

It quickly became reality for Ms. Herman. She accepted a full-time teaching position in the Aldine Independent School District soon after graduating, magna cum laude, with a B.S.Ed. in Childhood Inclusive Education, from SUNY Fredonia.

“When they said they needed fifth grade science and social studies teachers, and asked me if I was willing to do that, I was totally in (for it). I’m the kind of person willing to take on anything. I’m here to learn and grow. That’s how I see it!” – Elizabeth Herman

During her first student teaching placement in the Aldine district, Herman was assigned to an inclusion teacher who assists fifth and sixth grade teachers who teach several subjects and also work with special needs students. She gave extra support to several teachers and also functioned as a co-teacher.

“It gave me the opportunity to see different subjects, different teaching styles,” Herman remembers, mostly in English, social studies and science, and occasionally in dance and math.

Herman also returned to campus during the spring semester, after she had finished her second student teaching placement – far closer to home in Dunkirk – to discuss her student teaching experience with next cohort of Aldine student teacher candidates. Her second placement was in a second grade class in Dunkirk’s School 5. 

“Miss (Carmen) Andrews definitely let me do a lot on my own, especially with second graders, who were way advanced for second grade,” Herman recalls.

“I had a small group of students in English and got to read Harry Potter with them. That’s a large book with a lot of big words and details. I mostly read to them, asked them what they learned from it,” she explains. When the students were able to retrieve a considerable amount information and detail after Herman posed questions, “it made me feel glad and happy that they were able to learn from something so advanced for their age.”

Herman praised Ms. Andrews for support throughout her placement, and also for giving her literally hundreds of books that Herman could take with her and place in her own future classroom.

A career devoted to working with children was Herman’s goal when she enrolled at SUNY Fredonia, but she didn’t know that would become her passion. Perhaps she inherited that desire from her father, Michael, who spent his entire career in public education as a history teacher and high school dean.

Herman, who grew up in the Long Island area, actually learned about SUNY Fredonia through her father, who was then helping students in his own school investigate prospective colleges.

Mr. Herman knew his daughter wanted to pursue a career in education, and was also strongly interested in dance, so the opportunity to pick up a minor in Dance Studio Administration while earning a B.S.Ed. degree in Childhood Inclusive Education, with a Social Sciences concentration, made SUNY Fredonia her top choice.

Herman’s parents had long-term plans to relocate to Texas, where they have many longtime friends. The family game plan was to move to the Lone Star State after Herman graduated from SUNY Fredonia, and she would then join them there before deciding what would become the next chapter of her life.

Herman learned about SUNY Fredonia’s strong student teaching affiliation with the Aldine district, which led to a field placement there and then ultimately accepting an Aldine job offer upon receiving her bachelor’s degree. She was in the right place at the right time, and today Herman lives just a few hours away from her parents, who settled in Dallas, so she’s able to visit them.

Herman’s teaching assignments in Orange Grove Elementary School have fluctuated some; she started as an inclusion teacher in August 2023, then temporarily taught science and social studies to fifth graders before settling into a first grade teaching position. “When they said they needed fifth grade science and social studies teachers, and asked me if I was willing to do that, I was totally in (for it),” Herman said.

“I’m the kind of person willing to take on anything. I’m here to learn and grow. That’s how I see it!”
Herman thrives on motivation that her students have for learning. “The first graders want to learn more,” she said, and that makes her happy to be able to make that happen.

Drs. Michael Jabot and Jill Marshall are among Herman’s favorite professors at SUNY Fredonia. As a first-year student, she was enrolled in EDU 226: The Earth as a System, taught by SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor Jabot. “He knew who I was and was very helpful” she recalled. She reconnected with him as a senior in a methods course that Jabot led.

“Elizabeth was one of the most inquisitive and deep-thinking students I have worked with,” Jabot noted. She never failed to ask questions that “helped all of us to look more deeply at the issue/topic we were discussing,” he said.

Herman connected with Associate Professor Marshall twice during her senior year, in another methods course and in Dr. Marshall’s capacity as the student teaching seminar course instructor during her culminating clinical field experiences. “She was so warm and loving as a teacher; she allowed me to do so much in class that I never thought I would be able to do.”

Dr. Marshall noted, “While Liz was teaching in Houston I worked closely with her as her EDU 416 professor [this class is linked with student teaching]. There were several things that stood out to me about Liz, but if I were to identify one it would be her dedication and perseverance. She had some challenging situations and instead of complaining she dedicated herself to doing her best. She used these situations as learning opportunities that would grow her as a future teacher.”

A hefty boost in confidence when it came to being in the classroom was the biggest takeaway from student teaching experiences for Herman, along with “also knowing that there were people out there who saw me and saw what I was doing, telling me that I was doing a great job, even if I didn’t believe in myself at the time.”

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