Presenting CSU Graduate Student Sara Majewski for the November Teacher Spotlight!
Sara Majewski teaches 6th grade Social Studies at Garfield Heights Middle School, in Garfield Heights, Ohio. She earned her B.S. in Middle Childhood Education from Kent State University and will graduate with her M.A. in History from Cleveland State University in 2014. Over the course of her 10-year teaching career, Majewski has taught 6th and 7th grade World History, 8th grade American History, and 7th and 8th grade Reading/Language Arts. She is also active in the academic community at CSU, recently presenting her paper “Examining the Use of Political Cartoons in Latin American Studies: A Call and Caution to Historians” in the CLASS Social Science Brown Bag series.
What inspired you to become a teacher?
I was inspired to become a Social Studies teacher in part due to my family and upbringing. As a child, my parents were always taking me to historical sites and reenactments. In school, however, I was only learning about dates and maps – I want to show students that there is more to history than that. My father was also very interested in history, which certainly impacted my career choice.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?
The most rewarding aspect of teaching is seeing students overcome obstacles and accomplish more than they ever thought possible. When students work hard and raise their grades, finally grasp a new concept, or share what they learned with others I can share and celebrate in these small milestones. It is also very rewarding when former students come back to visit and tell me all they have accomplished and the great things they have gone on to do.
What are your favorite ways to incorporate primary sources and/or technology in your lessons?
I love to use primary sources from opposing sides of an event or issue. This helps students see both sides of an argument and gain a better perspective on the topic. Comparisons like these also help students develop higher-level thinking skills.
I often use technology to bring history to life for my students. I will use interactive maps, show battle reenactments, or take students on virtual tours (if available) when studying a place or event. Through technology I am able to engage my students in a way that simply reading from the book does not facilitate. This also provides some students with an opportunity to (virtually) explore places they may never have a chance to visit in real life.
What is the most important thing you learned in your teacher education program?
The most important thing I learned was to be flexible. Every day brings its own set of challenges and you need to be flexible enough to handle whatever comes your way. It is important to have enrichment and reinforcement activities ready and always have a Plan B – just in case.
What advice would you give a student interested in becoming a Social Studies teacher?
I would say that you have to be truly excited about what you teach. Students are more likely to listen, become engaged and then retain information when teachers genuinely like the subject. Also, push students to develop critical thinking skills by asking why events occurred and how the outcome changed history, rather than simply when it happened and who was there.