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Making Schoolwork Come Alive: Q&A with MAT student Matt Blanchard

By Room 241 Team August 9, 2016

The Reformation isn’t usually an exciting subject for high school students. Unless they’re in Concordia Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) student Matt Blanchard’s 10th grade AP history class, that is. “Using iPhones and iPads borrowed from Concordia, students created a social media campaign for members of Lutheran, Catholic, and English reformations — presenting arguments for or against these movements. They had to capture the mood of the movements using today’s language of tweets and hashtags.”

Making it personal

As a student teacher in an 8th-grade humanities class at Beaumont Middle School in Portland, Blanchard again added technology to the mix. “I taught a short unit on personal identity and symbolism, further enhanced with augmented reality that students could view on their cell phones. Each lesson had buttons, videos, pictures, or other information embedded to enhance the learning experience, allowing students to explore a broad range of historical topics with the option to focus on the symbols they were most drawn to.”

A teacher at heart

As for his own high school experience, Blanchard says, “I was not a traditional ‘good student.’ I only managed to graduate on time through a mixture of alternative classes at the community college and distance learning credit recovery.” After high school, Blanchard spent seven years in the military as part of a small unit called the Airborne Forward Surgical Team. “As a result,” he says, “I was always training something to somebody — including fitness training and advanced trauma curriculum for lay personnel. I even introduced some basic Arabic language training.”

“Teaching was always something that I did as part of my work and everyday life, and while it took a long time to become my overall career choice, it was the one constant in my ever-shifting list of potential jobs.” After leaving the military, Blanchard earned his bachelor’s degree in politics, philosophy, and economics, while also working full-time as a pediatric nurse at Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma. “I was always trying to find innovative ways to connect with kids in order to make their hospital experience better, and I found myself having a lot of fun in the process.”

Making the connection

So how did Blanchard decide to pursue a career in teaching at Concordia? “Ultimately, I felt that secondary education was the place where I belonged – the place where I could make the greatest impact and be happiest. For me, it came down to education being more about human connections and social development than necessarily about the academics. My decision to attend Concordia’s MAT program to become an educator came about as a result of all my experiences. This is what I felt like life had been preparing me for all along.”