Spanish major and environmental studies minor Malin Ehrsam ’18 has gone from being a student to a teacher in one fell swoop. Just a few short weeks ago, she was studying for finals; now, as a Teach for America (TFA) employee, she’s the one assigning material.
“Currently, I’m teaching second-grade English Language Arts for summer school,” Ehrsam says. “The days start early, around 7 a.m., and end around 12 p.m., after the students go home and preparation for the next day is complete. Right now, my second-graders are improving their literacy skills through learning about the states of matter. It has been fun to see their curiosity grow as we learn more about the topic.”
Though Ehrsam had always liked working with children, she’d never much considered a career as a teacher prior to her senior year. It took an information session on TFA, hosted by the Center for Career and Professional Advising this past fall, to change that.
“I learned more about the mission of TFA, which is to ‘Expand opportunity for children by affecting profound systemic change,’” Ehrsam says. “TFA finds, develops, and supports a diverse network of leaders from classrooms, schools, and every sector and field to shape the broader system in which schools operate. This really resonated with me, so I decided to apply.”
Since accepted, and assigned to TFA’s Milwaukee chapter, she is spending the next two years teaching anything from English to biology to the elementary-, middle-, and high-schoolers of the city’s suburban neighborhoods. (Her fall placement is in Carmen Northwest High School’s special education department). It’s a prospect she’s looking forward to—though that doesn’t mean it’s always easy.
“Teaching is one of the hardest things I have attempted, and will ever attempt, but also one of the most rewarding,” Ehrsam says. “I’m learning how to be patient, and how to adapt quickly—for example, when lessons aren’t going exactly as planned. The experience I hope to gain through teaching will ideally guide me in anything I choose to pursue in the future.”
And she’s adding her own twist to the curriculum in the process.
“I’m hoping to integrate my passion for environmental education into the classroom in creative ways,” she says, “such as starting a vegetable garden for students to learn about growing plants.”
“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series reporting on the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.
Photo: Malin Ehrsam ’18 stands in front of her classroom “Word Wall,” one of her primary teaching tools as a Teach for America corps member. Photo courtesy of Malin Ehrsam ’18.