UVEI Alumni: What Comes Next
When I tell people that I work at UVEI, a graduate school of education, I am sometimes asked how big the school is. Measured by the student body size in any given year, we are a very small school of typically less than 100. Measured by impact, I come to a different conclusion. In the 55 years since UVEI started as the Upper Valley Teacher Training Program, a remarkable number of educators have participated in our programs. A recent search in our database shows a network of 852 alums of our degree and licensure programs that we have stayed connected with in some capacity. The large majority of these have gone on to teach or lead in schools and districts in New Hampshire, Vermont, New England, even internationally. Many are still working in schools. Others have retired or applied their skills towards different careers.
My own path as a UVEI alum has been an interesting one. After completing the Teacher Internship Program in 2007, I taught high school mathematics in Seattle for five years, then moved back to the Upper Valley to start a family. Two years later I landed here at UVEI as the registrar and I am now approaching ten years here. Regardless of where we (UVEI alums) are in our career and life trajectories, we share a common experience of being challenged and inspired in a community of learners through our UVEI experience. How does that shared UVEI experience impact “what comes next” for alumni? To some extent it would depend on who you ask, but through conversations and connections over the years we have uncovered some common themes.
UVEI candidates continually cite relationships – with their cohort, their mentor, and their faculty coach – as keys to their learning and success. Jenna Darling (2021 Teacher Alum) had one way of describing the relationship building that happens in the Teacher Intern Program: “Being able to build relationships with students daily has allowed me to understand their abilities and to know them as learners. I have also been inspired, personally and professionally, by the connections that I have made with my colleagues at UVEI. The supportive and professional environment at the weekly seminar encourages candidates to be vested not only in their own success but the successes of the fellow teacher interns.” UVEI staff have seen this play out in the efforts of some cohorts to organize gatherings and text message groups after their time at UVEI has come to a close and in communications that alumni maintain with their faculty coaches after they leave UVEI. Connections have also been developed and maintained amongst cohort members who work in the same district or school, or who return to UVEI later to advance their careers.
Those who follow our newsletters and website posts know that collaboration is not only a focus of what we do here at UVEI, but also a focus of our current research into how schools recruit and sustain educators. What does collaboration look like for our alums who have experienced it? Lisa Floyd, co-principal of Randolph Union HS and 2019 Principal Alum, described it in this way: “I really appreciate how we worked really reflectively and collaboratively with the peers in our UVEI cohort and I think that’s something that I really brought away from the program.” At her school, after a particularly challenging year in the midst of the pandemic, she commented “we can continue to collaborate, draw on each other‘s strengths, ask each other for feedback, take care of each other, and use professional development opportunities as a place to remind people of what they know how to do.” UVEI staff have also seen this desire for collaboration when our alums return to us for focus group discussions on relevant topics, and when they join our Barnes Initiative for Collaborative Learning.
Depth of Learning
Since UVEI’s founding as the Upper Valley Teacher Training Program, there have been efforts to move beyond the traditional “coursework” that comes with higher education and to use experiential methods of learning, to teach content strands that cut across traditional “subject areas”, and to assess based on demonstrated competency rather than traditional “tests.” That type of learning is both modeled and expected in our programs. Marcela Carroll, 2008 Teacher Alum, had an education career that led her to various schools and eventually to a one-room multi-age schoolhouse in Maine. As Marcela says, “The best part of the UVEI teaching program is the hands-on learning: the internship under the wing of an experienced teacher. You learn how to work as a team and how to plan lessons ahead of time. Whatever school I go to, I make sure to meet the art teacher, the technology teacher, and the family and consumer science teacher to see ‘okay what are you learning?’ I like cooperation with other teachers to carry a lesson.”
Are you an alum? Where are you now?
My own experience as a UVEI alum certainly echoes these themes. I was drawn to a teaching job that put me in an interdisciplinary academy within a larger public school, involving constant collaboration across subject areas and project based assessments. My relationship with my UVEI coach/supervisor continued even after I moved to Seattle: serving an instrumental role as I navigated some particularly rough times in my first year. As a new teacher, I would actively seek opportunities to collaborate – these transitioned from requests for help (observations and lesson planning) to exchanges of ideas in which all of us had knowledge and experience to bring to the table. I believe that this desire for collaboration, relationships, and deep learning also ultimately helped bring me back here full circle to UVEI.
Here at UVEI, we are continually grateful for our alums – for chances to reconnect with you, to hear about your experiences and to share some of ours, and to help you advance your careers in the future through our programs. On that note, as we look towards publication of our annual print newsletter this spring, we would love to hear from our alums. Where are you now, and what are your career-related achievements? These can include placements, promotions, awards and fellowships, special commendations, certificates. How has UVEI impacted you? Do you have a photo to share? Pass that along as well! From personal experience, I understand the strength and joy that comes from reconnecting (through printed words, email conversations, or in person interactions) with my UVEI mentors and colleagues, and I hope that you will stay connected as well.
Marie McCormick is a 2007 Teacher Alum, former high school math teacher, and has been UVEI’s Registrar and Operations Associate since 2014. Please send your alumni news to her via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.