“We truly need to help children explore their world”: Q&A with Christine C. Foley, MEd Student
We all want to give students opportunities to grow, and New Jersey-based Elementary Technology Coach Christine Foley takes this to the next level. Read on to discover how this Cavalier believes we can improve our education system as well as her love for all things STEAM.
What degree did you acquire from Concordia University-Portland, and what made you choose Concordia?
I earned my MEd in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in STEAM education in September of 2018. Initially, I was attracted to the idea that I could finish the master’s program in one year. Once I saw that Concordia offered a concentration in STEAM, I knew it was what I wanted to do.
There were hopes of a new position opening up in my elementary school and I thought this program would help improve my chances of getting hired. I’m happy to say, I was offered the position and accepted it in January.
It sounds like you’re glad that you chose Concordia since your STEAM concentration helped you earn your new position.
Yes, I’m very happy that I chose Concordia. I appreciate the Christian values that are embedded throughout the program. I love to read the spiritual encouragement each week, and many of those pieces have spoken to me personally.
I also appreciate how kind everyone has been, beginning with Gail Dudley, my enrollment specialist. She made me feel like part of the Concordia family before I was even accepted. I was at an extremely difficult time in my life and, without even knowing me, Gail lifted me up and made me feel like this program was something I could accomplish. She has contacted me throughout the program to check in and even to wish me a Merry Christmas! What university does that? I feel like Concordia truly cares about my success in the program.
Are you doing anything interesting that you’d like to share with fellow educators?
I started a technology club for fourth-grade girls, specifically using Lego EV3 robotics. It was my hope that if I gave girls a positive experience early on with robotics, they might be more apt to take robotics courses once they got to middle school. I ended up including boys in the group as well, and I fundraised the money for the robotics myself. It’s a volunteer position that I’ve held for the past four years. Last year, the program was featured on “Classroom Close Up,” a local TV show that features educators and their programs.
What inspired you to become an educator?
I know it is cliché, but I never wanted to be anything else. When we wrote career reports in second grade, I told the teacher I wanted to be a first-grade teacher. My rationale at the time was that I had already finished first grade, so I must know how to teach it. By fifth grade, I was allowed to work in a kindergarten classroom three times per week as a peer tutor. By sixth grade, I had a reading group of my own.
I will never forget the feeling of being handed the teacher’s manual. I volunteered at preschools until I was old enough to work, and continued working in preschool through college. As an adult, I wanted to be a teacher because I wanted to inspire students to love learning as much as I did.
Admittedly, I am saddened by the state of education today. We are draining the love of learning right out of students with the pressures of high-stakes testing and increased rigor. We truly need to let children explore their world, build the connections that are so valuable in their learning, and not force-feed them facts and figures.
But this program has reaffirmed who I am as a teacher and it has validated my beliefs about what teaching and learning really look like. I am truly inspired by what is possible in education, and I hope to be an inspiration to others as well.
Do you have a favorite experience from the program?
I enjoyed all of my courses, and I truly enjoyed the professional interactions with my classmates. I learned as much from their teaching experiences as I did from the professors. I also enjoyed that we have classmates from all over and hearing about all the wonderful things educators are doing. It also made me appreciate the resources I have in my district relative to other schools.
My outlook on education has broadened, especially with Concordia’s STEAM concentration. The idea of facilitating this type of learning environment is very exciting. However, what I hope for most is to inspire teachers to be excited about teaching again. To help them remember why they wanted to be teachers in the first place — before teaching became about numbers and scores on scraps of paper. I teach with some of the greatest people I have ever met, and it disheartens me to see them discouraged and overburdened instead of uplifted. How can we ever hope to inspire our students, when we aren’t inspired ourselves?
In Concordia’s MEd program, we are shown in each course how leaders can make a difference in our schools and community. Even as an online student, I felt part of something larger than myself. Concordia develops a supportive educational environment that has made a difference in my life.
What do you still hope to achieve as an educator?
I hope to inspire other teachers. Eventually, I would like to work at the college level, supervising student teachers. Teaching is hard work. It takes time, dedication, and sacrifice. However, there is nothing more rewarding than knowing you made a difference in someone’s life, especially a child’s.
Kara Wyman has a BA in literature and a MEd from the University of California-Santa Barbara. She spent a decade working with adolescents as an English teacher, the founder, and director of a drama program, a curriculum designer, and a project manager for a teen-centered nonprofit organization. She is now the Alumni and Community Manager for Concordia University-Portland.