Heather travelling through Belfast during her study abroad trip.
Heather Mitchell is not unlike many Millersville students. She came to MU for the reputable education program and the picturesque, small town campus. However, since her arrival she has had no shortage of experiences to make her a truly stand-out student. Not only is Heather extremely passionate about her future career as a social studies teacher and actively involved on campus since her arrival, but her time at Millersville has opened her mind to new ideas, friendships and experiences. Since studying abroad to Northern Ireland last year, her time in college has even given her a bit of wanderlust as well!
Why did you choose Millersville?
My first college visit was during my sophomore year of high school. I was interested in teaching, so naturally Millersville was one of the schools on my list of colleges to visit. Initially, I was skeptical about wanting to truly like the university because it was only an hour away from my hometown. I saw college as an opportunity to continue to grow and I really wanted to be independent. Arriving at the spring open house was incredible. The weather was beautiful (no rain for once) and the atmosphere of the campus instantly felt like the right fit for me.
What is your favorite thing about your time at Millersville?
Without a doubt, my favorite experience at Millersville had been the opportunity to travel to Northern Ireland for two weeks this past summer. I went with one of my roommates and it was an experience that I will remember for a lifetime. I find myself reminiscing on my visit by looking through pictures and recalling various moments from the trip with my roommate. I was very thankful for the chance to go abroad and I am even more grateful that I had the opportunity to go with her! Having the chance to interact with new people and cultures is one of the greatest and most rewarding accomplishments some can have and I would highly encourage all people to travel abroad at some point in their life.
Why did you choose your major?
I have always had an affinity towards history. I particularly loved American history and in eighth grade my teacher inspired me to want to share that passion. In high school I was involved with the peer-tutoring program, although I was a tutor for Algebra I and Algebra II, not history. During my senior year I worked with a freshman who was diagnosed with Aspersers. My experiences as a peer tutor solidified my desire to become a social studies teacher. Currently, I am a student teacher at George Smith Middle School, teaching eighth grade geography. Throughout the course of my student teaching, I can honestly say that I know my passion to help all students has only amplified throughout my experience.
As a student teacher what have you enjoyed most? What has been the most difficult part? Do you feel your experience has prepared you for the future?
My student teaching experience has been unforgettable! My students are funny, very involved and bring a smile to my face. I am so blessed to have this amazing opportunity to work with students every day, and hopefully impart knowledge, inspiration and a strong desire to learn into them. Most people can manipulate their schedules to set up the perfect senior year. Education majors know that senior year will be the most intensive and challenging year of them all. Preparing lessons, attending meetings and seminars and being responsible for the education of 160 students can be extremely daunting tasks. Not to mention have a job, maintain campus activities, friendships, apply for jobs and fit some time into that impossible schedule for the other things you want to do. My weekends are consumed with constant work and preparation, but I would not have it any other way. This is my future career. Unlike others, I am completely immersed into the real world and the hardships that go along with that. Teachers do not work the typical day from nine-to-five. Teaching never ends – never. Summers are filled with workshops, continuing education, modifying lessons. Work never simply stays at school, papers always need to be graded and lesson plans are constantly revised to accommodate and differentiate various students needs. As teachers we have to find new, innovative ways that incorporate technology to ensure that all of those students obtain the same education. Luckily, education is constantly evolving and growing. New ideas are always ready and available for teachers to utilize and students need to be challenged with engaging activities. I love being creative with my lessons and as a social studies teacher, nothing is more exciting that listening to students share their opinions and question why things happen. It is like watching that light bulb go off in their head and know that you helped them get there. I love teaching; I care about my students and my passion to help others is continuing to grow every day.
Heather (center) poses with her Orientation group
Are you involved in anything on campus?
I am involved in various different activities on campus. I am a member of Circle K – a volunteer organization affiliated with the Kwanis Organization. During my junior year I was the editor for the club, responsible for creating a monthly newsletter as well as leading various events. I was also an Orientation Leader during my junior year. I led a group of about 30 students for five days to ensure they became fully acclimated to the campus. Additionally, I have worked at the Information Desk in the Student Memorial Center for the past two years. The opportunity to work at the Information Desk has given me a chance to interact with all kinds of people and I am very blessed to have made some wonderful friendships there. Lastly, I am a member of P.C.S.S. (Pennsylvania Council for the Social Studies). I recently attended a seminar that focused on how to implement various types of instruction into a social studies classroom.
What do you plan to do after graduation?
For a graduating senior this is the one question everyone wants to know the answer to. Honestly, with student teaching I have not given my best effort to look for jobs. I have made a list of jobs to apply to and I have submitted a couple applications, but so far my job hunt has been a very slow process. I have been looking for jobs in the mid-Atlantic region, mainly Pennsylvania, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware.
What will you miss most about Millersville?
Without a doubt I will miss all of the great friends that I have made here at Millersville. Each of my experiences has opened doors for me that gave me the chance to meet so many people. I am still very close friends with people I met during my freshman year at Millersville as well as all of the other years of my college career. I am genuinely going to miss seeing all of my friends on a daily basis, but I know that distance is only a minor factor if your friendship is strong even to withstand it. I will also miss the independence associated with college. For the summer I am moving home with my parents and while they are very open-minded and usually give me my space, it is definitely not the same as having the freedom I am accustomed to here at school.
Heather (center) goofing around with friends at the pond
What is some way your time at Millersville has influenced you?
After graduating high school and proceeding to enter college in the fall, I look back at the time and realize how naïve I was. I grew up in a small town where I knew everyone in my graduating class. I gave people the benefit of the doubt because I wanted to believe that everyone has the best of intentions. I absolutely loved my freshman year experience, in fact it was probably my favorite year of college. However, if I learned something it was never be too trusting. Be open-minded and give people the benefit of the doubt, but also acknowledge that people do not always share the same feelings. Throughout my four years of college, I have become much more cognizant and respectful of the fact that people do not always have the same beliefs I do, which is completely acceptable. I left high school with a conservative mindset and I am not leaving college as an independent and free thinker.
What is something you want to do before graduation?
This past summer I started my senior year bucket list. Unfortunately, I may not be able to finish all of the items on that list; needless to say it might have been a bit ambitious considering my lack of time to have a social life during my student teaching. I have been able to accomplish seven out of 15 items so far. I would like to cross off three more items on my list before I graduate, one of those adventures being the Wolf Sanctuary of Pennsylvania. Overall, I just want to cherish my last few weeks at Millersville and spend as much time with my friends creating new memories that we will remember for a lifetime.
Where would you most like to travel?
Everywhere! I want to travel the globe! As I said before, I’ve traveled to Northern Ireland last summer with one of my roommates and I would love to go back! After going overseas for the first time, the travel bug has bitten me – I want to travel abroad again and again! I think that we live an absolutely breath-taking and beautiful world. My grandparents came to the United States from Croatia, so if I had to choose one place to visit it would have to be there. We celebrate some Croatian traditions in my family and to actually have the opportunity to immerse myself in Croatian culture would be truly wonderful.
Is there anything else that makes you stand out as a Millersville student?
Recently, I participated in the Millersville University Technology Showcase after one of my lessons was selected as a part of the seminar. I demonstrated this lesson to a group of my peers as well as administrators and professors to show how I have incorporated technology into my classroom.