Susan MuzzyEducation major Susan Muzzy ’11 asked to individualize her program of study, which resulted in her teaching at Lyseth School in Portland for an entire year as a college senior. She was interviewed in June before school let out for summer.

How did you customize your program?

I asked to student teach in Portland because I wanted to get diversity experience. My cooperating teacher and I really hit it off. I told her that I only had two classes to take to graduate and that I wanted to continue to volunteer as a teacher for the second half of the year. I wrote a proposal to earn my 7 remaining credits in the classroom, and it got approved.

Can anyone do that?

You have to be proactive. “I’m not demanding. I’ve just learned how to ask.”

Tell me about your year-long, teaching experience.

Together with my cooperating teacher, I handled teaching 5th grade math and some of the reading teaching. I went to special ed meetings and staff meetings. I wrote notes to parents. I went to my students’ baseball games or plays, too.

I love what I do so much. I bought a Flip camera to videotape the kids, so we can reflect on good learning practices. They really got into it. They could see what they were doing and they would say, “Oh, I should have been doing ....”

I’m so excited for tomorrow. My high school math teacher is coming. We hit all our 5th-grade targets back in March, so I decided we were going to do pre-algebra. Now they know variables, negative numbers and exponents. They like it. I told them they could walk into a high school and the high school teachers would be impressed.

What has been the attitude of your professors?

When I asked for what I wanted to do, they said, “You go, girl. You tell us what you want to do and we’ll see what we can do to help.”

Did they know you could work independently?

Just before I took the math methods class (for educations majors), I read the entire textbook over Christmas break before the class even began. I love math. Dr. Rey met with me independently and had me interview good math teachers and write a paper. She got me a ton of additional articles and books to read.

So, I guess you really like math.

I have a huge passion for math. I could eat it up. If you’re jazzed about something, students will be excited, too. A big part of it is attitude. They love math now. I am always happy and a positive teacher. The kids follow suit and are hard-working.

What is provocative about math?

The critical thinking skills. So many people have a bad attitude about math. I can be in a role to change their attitude. I’m writing a proposal for a national conference on the writing and math connection. In class, I had them write three paragraphs about a math problem and their math scores were so much higher.

Last year, I wrote a proposal that Dr. Marshall submitted to the International Reading Association conference. It got accepted and we both presented in May. It was about teaching kids to read non-fiction elements like bar graphs.

What’s a pet peeve about teaching?

If a teacher says, ‘I know this is hard, but we’re going to plow through this anyway.’ I’m, like, ‘Wait a minute, you just turned us all off from this before we begin.’

Tell me about your 5th grade class coming to St. Joe’s?

We scheduled field trips so the kids came to St. Joe’s and met with the math methods students. They also learned about college. In my classroom next year when I get a job, I want to have a bunch of college brochures out and tell them, “You’re learning this because your goal is college.” It’s a huge motivator.

Do you have any hobbies?

I’m kind of a nerd, I really like school. I have no hobbies. I’m a good bowler though.