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A week after New Year’s in 2011, the cherry blossom tree outside my apartment’s living room erupted in pink and my best friend died. Two weeks later, I stared into the eyes of seventeen eager 9-year-olds in my first classroom. By the end of the semester, my fingertips were stained with paint from every color of the rainbow, complimenting the crimson blisters that settled themselves on the backs of both heels. Measuring cups, silly string, and yo-yos were strategically situated on my desk chair. That winter, I declared myself an English Language and Comparative Literature and Spanish Linguistics double major at Oglethorpe University. Settled in the worn gray chair in the Registrar’s Office, I was flooded by the incredible possibility—which everyone has, but few use—to create for the better. Since serving as a fourth-grade Language Arts teacher in my sophomore year, I have become “hooked” on education. In the classroom, I aim to create an engaging and challenging environment that fosters communication and collaboration. In an academic realm conventionally ensnared by standardized testing, I am the teacher who, reminded by my grandfather’s love of humorous delight, regularly DJs “dance breaks” when the material gets tedious, cooks homemade pizza to introduce angles and symmetry, emcees American Idol competitions to teach state capitals, and invites students to present topics on the “Strom Stream” –from a Shakespearean monologue to how Ninjago Legos simulate the Battle of Bunker Hill. I believe the Department of Language and Literacy Education at the University of Georgia’s College of Education is the ideal setting for pursing my Master’s in English Education because UGA encourages work that negotiates multicultural boundaries within urban settings, recognizing that each student learns differently. Within UGA’s English Education program, I would seek to study under Dr. Donna Alvermann, to promote critical thinking and visual “everyday” literacy by constructing effective dialogic and imaginative processes within the context of literature, composition, and the development of critical awareness. Like my research on storytelling in a digital age for Harvard University’s Project Zero conference, Dr. Alvermann’s work illustrates how to foster inferential comprehension within diverse learning environments, validating that a shift in emphasizing explicit, epistemological instruction to implicit and conceptual assessment validates quality collaboration within the scope of multiple literacies, thus seeking to meet the pivotal challenges of today. Because I emphasize children’s literature as a method for curriculum-based assessments, Dr. Joel Taxel’s analysis on the Teaching of Children’s Literature within the multicultural scope of theoretical and pedagogical principles also fascinates me. Finally, by building upon the research of my senior thesis To Instruct and Delight: A Historical Survey of 18th and 19th Century English Didactic Children’s Literature, I would like to further explore how to best reach an adolescent audience via the written word, creating an emphasis on the association between texts and readerships. Therefore, Dr. Victoria Hasko’s research on the synergistic relationship between cultural relevance and linguistic responsiveness within secondary education is a facet I would like to study in relation to literacy and language acquisition in high-needs schools. Throughout my graduate journey, I aim to earn a Master’s in English Education. During my time as a teacher in a classroom where 70% of students were diagnosed with learning challenges, I recognized firsthand that every student learns differently; thus, the curriculum—relevant, problem-based, and interdisciplinary—should be presented with a variety of “multiple intelligences” in mind. Thus, I seek to design methods of developmental reading strategies to implement organizational techniques in earlier grades that impact future literary capacities. Building upon my experience in Curriculum Development in the lower and middle grades, I will research how 21st century practices can increase accuracy in fluency and comprehension at appropriate and extending grade levels. Additionally, I hope to research how a “new world of children” in England and the United States during the 18th and 19th centuries that were reflected—and possibly, even created—by the content of literature, is starkly relevant in today’s instruction that could be conveyed even—or especially—under the guise of “amusement.” Indeed, learning should be fun! From exploring areas within literature, I would like to effectively incorporate classic texts in my future classrooms and therefore, and aim to understand the progression of children’s literature as a genre and as a pedagogical method for Curriculum-Based Assessments within the context of oral fluency, reading comprehension, and grade-level proclivity. During my time in graduate school, my overarching objective will challenge me to most effectively reach adolescent audiences with the delight of the written word via literary techniques, grammatical styles, and the development of characters, plots, and themes. Ultimately, I intend to earn my Ph.D. in English Education to serve at the university level. In addition to equipping students with writing abilities to thrive in the “real world,” I hope to work primarily with first-year undergraduates as they improve their communication skills, refine their scholarly precision, and most importantly, develop a sense of intellectual inquiry. To that end, I aim to be a teacher that encourages her students to treat writing as a craft rather than simply as another box to check on a college transcript. Education, then, is more than a hobby, a chosen discipline, or merely a line on my résumé; rather, this avenue tests my intellectual stamina while providing an outlet to give back to my community and make a mark on my world. Indeed, I feel called to be an educator, inspiring students to recognize the meaningful relevancy of English prose, novels, and research. From William Blake’s juxtaposition and Shakespeare’s unmatched wit to Jane Austen’s social criticism and Geoffrey Chaucer’s endearing colloquialism, I hope to equip students with confidence in literature, instilling a lifelong zeal for the written word. Energized by the desire to succeed, I chose to follow what I love to do, seizing the limit of happiness, meaning, and fulfillment every day. C.S. Lewis said, “The task of the modern educator is not to cut down jungles, but to irrigate deserts.” I believe that education should equip students to be culturally, linguistically, and cognitively prepared to thrive in our ever-changing society. As a teacher, I will inspire my students to take an active role in their own learning, systematically redesigning the objectives of “typical” education to encompass meaning, relevancy, and resolution in the twenty-first century. If accepted into the College of Education at the University of Georgia, I aim to utilize this instructional schema to its fullest potential, challenging my students to achieve excellence in the classroom—and in life.
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