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Kayla MacLaughlin

  • Hometown: West Kingston, RI
  • Major: Elementary Education, Mathematics
  • Graduation Year: 2014

Why did you choose this degree program?

When first entering college, getting into the elementary education program was not part of my plan. I had always known that I wanted to teach, but I wasn’t sure what age group. I actually started in secondary education and English since you have to double in education. I also thought that to make the biggest difference in a child’s life I would have to be a high school teacher, but it amazed me how much of a difference teachers make in kindergarten and first grade. Once I started getting some experience working with kids from different age groups and talking to my mom before applying to the School of Education, I found I did not really care for high school age as much as younger kids. I found my passion working with younger kids so I applied for the elementary education program which was one of the best decisions of my life.

What inspired you to pursue your career choice?

Since I was a little kid, I have always dreamed of being a teacher. As I grew up, I went from wanting to be an art teacher, to middle school math teacher, to now being an elementary school teacher. Throughout my education, teachers have had such a great influence on my life and I wanted to do the same for others. After several of my field placements through the University of Rhode Island, I knew this was the right career choice for me.

Why did you choose URI?

When I was a freshman in high school, I toyed with the idea of going to college for my senior year of high school. Since I was going to the local high school in South Kingstown, I had the options of URI and CCRI. I have always lived 5 minutes from URI and spent a great deal on campus growing up. I fell in love with the campus and knew that was where I wanted to go for school. So, for my senior year, I decided to go to URI and continued my education here after in the elementary education program.

What has been the best part of your studies at URI?

The best part of my studies I would say are my field placements. As many degrees, you learn the most when actually out in the field putting theories into practice. I have taken many great education courses to prepare me for my field placements, particularly student teaching and a long term sub position, but I thoroughly enjoyed actually being a teacher. I really became the teacher I am today and hope to be from these experiences.

What’s been the best part of your whole experience at URI?

The friends and connections I have gained here. Through my program, I have met some lifelong friends that are truly amazing people. I have also made some connections through my field placements, professors, and other faculty on campus. I have such great memories throughout my college years and connections that will last a lifetime.

What has surprised you most about URI?

Since I never lived on campus or able to participate in any clubs, I was nervous I wouldn’t get the full “college experience”. Looking back and looking forward to this coming year, I have had a great experience. I met new people, made great friends, got to know some awesome professors, great classes, and so many more that I would not have had if I had not gone to URI. I found that I didn’t need to live on campus or be in a club, even though there are some great clubs on campus, to have a great college experience.

What do you think of the faculty at URI?

I have really enjoyed working with the faculty at URI. They are very knowledgeable on what they are teaching and passionate. Whenever I have had any questions or concerns, I have always been able to talk to someone here and they are always as helpful as they can be. I have enjoyed most of my classes and formed some great connections with the faculty here that I will have long after I graduate.

What do you consider the biggest strengths of your particular program at URI?

I think the biggest strength of my program are the faculty and the field placements. Every semester, even after my freshman year, I have always gone to my advisor to make sure I was making the right decisions about my education path. They have always been helpful in making these decisions as well as other decisions that have affected my life. For the program, there are several different field experiences that need to be completed in order to move on or complete the degree. A lot of other colleges do not provide placements like URI does and I have been fortunate enough to have amazing field experiences.

What kind of internships, experiential learning opportunities, or real-life experiences have you had?

For the education program, in general, there are different field placements that must be completed throughout the program to graduate. For each field placement, you are placed in a school and a grade depending on whether you are elementary education or secondary education. In all of the field placements, I have had experience teaching, observing the life of a teacher, and even having this experience firsthand. As I have said, many schools do not provide placements, but I am fortunate enough that URI does and that they have all been amazing. I have learned so much from each of them that have contributed to my successes as an educator. I have also been able to network and form connections that I will have once I graduate and look for a job.

What’s your “Big Idea”?

I have several “big ideas” that I hope to accomplish or begin in my lifetime. I want to make a difference in other’s lives. I want to make a difference in our education system for our future generations and even now. I want to be a great teacher as most I have had the honor of working with that really define what it means to be a teacher.

What would you say to someone undecided about where to go to school for your particular major/program?

There are a lot of great programs for education, but you won’t get an experience quite like at URI. The professors are knowledgeable and passionate about what they teach. You are also fortunate enough to have a program that places you in schools for your field experiences since a lot of colleges don’t. They are also great placements. The teachers are typically the best of the best and I have had great experiences at each of them. There is also a major ability to network through field placements and professors for when it comes time to graduate and look for jobs which is also really important and, what I would consider, a strength of the program.

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