Wednesday, April 08, 2015

Alum combines teaching language to students with outreach to their families

Tags: current students

When Priscilla Fisher left her home state of California after graduating from high school, she didn't know exactly where she would end up, but she knew exactly what she would become once she got there: a teacher.

"I just decided to pack up and leave; explore the U.S.," she said. "I wanted to go somewhere where I felt I would belong." After a stop at the University of Virginia, Fisher turned north and headed for Ann Arbor. "I always knew I wanted to work with kids, and decided in high school I would be a teacher," she said. "I knew the School of Education here at U-M was great—I thought that Dean [Deborah Loewenberg] Ball was very impressive. And I liked everything about Ann Arbor."

Fisher completed some of her undergraduate education at Washtenaw Community College, later transferring to Michigan. She entered the School of Education as a junior in the Elementary Teacher Education program, with an emphasis in language arts. As she worked through the program, it wasn't easy to make ends meet. In addition to winning as many scholarships as she could, Fisher found jobs that dovetailed with her love of working with children, as a nursery director at a church, and as a babysitter. Meanwhile, her program at SOE assigned her as a teaching intern at Burns Park Elementary School in the Ann Arbor Public Schools district.

After graduating in spring 2014, Fisher worked through the summer as a babysitter while staying in contact with teachers and administrators at Burns Park Elementary. In August, she was hired, and now is in the middle of her first year on staff. "I love it—it's a perfect fit," Fisher said. "I love the kids and the people I work with, and I intend to stay at Burns Park."

Fisher is realistic about the challenges, and benefits, of teaching. "This is not a job where you just clock in and out," she said. "You need to be excited about it. Teaching is a lot of work, and it takes a lot out of you. I think teachers don't get the credit they deserve, and it leads me to reflect on the reasons why I became a teacher."

One of the most important of those reasons is that she wants to inspire her students, as a way to honor her mother. "My mom could not read in English," Fisher explains. "But she made sure that I could." That has led to Fisher's work in Spanish instruction at Burns Park Elementary, and of her outreach to Hispanic families whose children attend the school.

"From my own experiences, I understand how difficult it is," Fisher said. "I'm building a Spanish curriculum at the school, and serving as a liaison with [Hispanic] families. I go out to their homes, to try and make education more accessible. I'd like to help them be involved in the school. It's difficult for them."

As she approaches the end of her first year as a practicing teacher, Fisher is looking forward to a respite from the Michigan weather ("I do get homesick for California in winter, but going out there is not an option"), but the summer won't be a vacation. "I'll be really busy," she explains. "Professional development, making visits to students' families, setting up the classroom. There's so much to do."

But Fisher isn't bothered by the work; in fact, she's obviously energized by her teaching job and is looking ahead to the future. "I want to be part of elementary education," she said. "Long-term, I'd like to teach teachers.

"There's just so much in it, to be a teacher."

Read about Fisher's scholarship help here.

Priscilla Fisher is Bachelor of Arts with Elementary Teacher Certification, '14

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