Elizabeth Hudson ’15 knew that she wanted to be a teacher from a young age. Her mother worked in education and now, after completing both her master’s and bachelor’s degrees at SUNY Potsdam, she is carrying on that family tradition.
At the end of August, Hudson interviewed for a job as a third-grade teacher at Parishville-Hopkinton Central School—the same school where she did her student teaching and later completed a literacy specialist internship. It was a Tuesday, and they offered her the job on the spot. “It was an incredible interview. I was video conferencing with them and smiling at people because I recognized them. It didn’t feel like those intimidating interviews that I’ve felt before. It kind of felt like I was home in a way,” Hudson recalled.
The next day, she loaded up her car outside her childhood home in Long Island, and made the long drive back to Potsdam—a trip she had taken many times before as a SUNY Potsdam student. Within a week of accepting the job, Hudson had moved back to Potsdam, gone through orientation and was teaching her first classroom of students as a full-time educator. “It happened very quickly. I think my mom is still trying to process that I upped and moved again,” she said.
The relationship between SUNY Potsdam and Parishville-Hopkinton Central School is one of many teaching collaborations in the North Country that has allowed the College’s emerging student teachers to work with children in real-world settings. SUNY Potsdam currently has five students who have either completed or are in the process of completing student teaching and literacy internships at Parishville-Hopkinton Central School. Additionally, Hudson is one of several SUNY Potsdam alumni who are now employed at the school.
Hudson graduated from SUNY Potsdam with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education in 2014 and stayed on to get her master’s degree in teaching as a literacy specialist in 2015. Along the way, her work as a student teacher proved to be an essential stepping stone to landing her first job.
Back when she was still an undergraduate student, even before student teaching at Parishville-Hopkinton Central School, Hudson embarked on a life-changing student teaching experience in Mooloolaba—a beach town on the eastern coast of Australia. “SUNY Potsdam has an amazing program where you can apply to do student teaching Down Under... It was the best experience of my life, getting to teach in another country and meeting people who can influence me and shape me,” Hudson said.
For three months she worked in a combined 2nd, 3rd and 4th-grade classroom with 50 children at the Chevallum State School, known affectionately as the strawberry school because of the colorful berries surrounding the property. It was a completely new experience for Hudson who spent her childhood growing up in Long Island. All of her students wore uniforms and the school was broken up into different buildings, so she had to walk outside to get to the next class. She was also exposed to the Montessori style of teaching—a unique, hands-on, independent approach to education. “It was nice to collaborate because there were three teachers in the classroom. It wasn’t just one teacher leading everything, it was a lot of group work and a lot of hands-on activities,” Hudson recalled.
Now, after completing two student teaching placements, a literacy internship and substitute teaching in Long Island for the last year and a half, she is leading her own class for the first time. “It’s incredible. I love my kids. I have 15 students. They’re a very sweet and mild-mannered class,” Hudson said.
She recently completed a buoyancy component with her students where they measured water, made clay boats and got them to float with weights. She has also been working with them on a sky calendar and has taken them outside to look at the moon. She said that she loves reading and writing because of her training as a literacy specialist. In fact, this year she’s having a competition to see if the kids in her class can read 1000 books by the end of the school year.
One thing that Hudson brings into the classroom every day is a good sense of humor. “I like to laugh. I have a sense of humor that I try to carry into everything in my life…I try to keep it fun because that's how I would want to learn,” she said.
Hudson said that her undergraduate classes at SUNY Potsdam were very helpful and that the faculty taught her teaching techniques that she still employs today. SUNY Potsdam’s Literacy Center also proved to be a great source of hands-on learning for Hudson as she developed and implemented lessons for local elementary school children. “I really enjoyed the classes that I took at SUNY Potsdam…They really help the individual see how they want to be a teacher, and provide the opportunities to further that passion for teaching. I’m going to be grateful for the rest of my life,” Hudson said.
To learn more about teacher education at SUNY Potsdam, visit: www.potsdam.edu/academics/SOEPS/education.