WomenSpire is a series about valuable alumni of the University of Maine showcasing their career journey developed to guide students who aren’t sure of their career paths. This next article focuses on Olivia Murphy, a University of Maine alumna. She was an elementary education student at the university and now works at Asa Adams Elementary School in Orono, ME. She started working there this year but has been a substitute teacher there for three years prior. This gave her ample opportunity to know the staff and the environment before she took on her position full-time.
Ever since she was little, she knew she liked teaching. She would always play “School” when she was younger, often playing as a teacher with friends. As she got older and entered high school, there were a lot of opportunities to start growing as an educator. She attended a career and technical academy, so she was able to take classes suited to her interests. She had many opportunities to gain experience in education. Through this program, she spent two years volunteering at an elementary school, and a year at a pediatrics unit in a hospital. She also had opportunities to work with children on their on-site kindergarten, with homeschooled children, and with the special education program.
When she got to college, she already had a lot of experience and knowledge about what she wanted to pursue. She was able to gain even more experience through practicums, which are integrated into education courses at the university. They give students in-person experiences to apply what they are learning in a specific course. These classes prepare them for student teaching, which is their full-time teaching experience before they graduate. Olivia would try to schedule her classes so she could take her days off to substitute teach at the elementary school.
One of her favorite parts of teaching is seeing her students grow and change. She’s so proud of her students currently because they are adapting to new models of learning and showing resilience by reaching the first-grade benchmarks! She finds it incredible to see how much change her students are going through, seeing them truly develop.
At Asa Adams Elementary, she is with her students in-person five times a week. Because she is in-person, it can be difficult to make sure students are being safe while also learning and developing.
“I want them to be kids, but there’s a lot that they aren’t able to do right now. We can’t sit on a rug together and I can’t have them high-five one another. It’s important for their development at a young age to be able to do these things with their friends”
Something valuable she’s learned from college is being flexible. In first grade with this pandemic, it’s hard to know exactly what to expect. Things could change drastically, and they could go remote any day. Being at college has taught her how to approach these challenges with a flexible mindset. Another important aspect from her university studies that she’s learned is how to work with other people. There are a lot of discussion-based activities in college and a lot of group work. This has helped her greatly in her career because there’s a lot of coordination with other teachers.
Olivia said this year has been difficult, but she feels like she has grown a lot.
“In college, if I ever thought I would be teaching right now in what is happening, I would’ve probably doubted myself. My self-confidence and what I’m capable of doing has definitely grown”
Olivia’s passion for teaching and love for her students was clearly shown throughout her talking to her. Even though this pandemic has been difficult, she is proof that there are amazing teachers who do a lot for the incoming generations. It was such an honor talking to her for this next issue of WomenSpire.