GMercyU Education Alumna Alexis Howard

Meet Alexis Howard

Education, 2020

Current Position: Third Grade Teacher in the Abington School District

Story Last Updated: February 2021
Current Position Updated: February 2021

I’ve known that I have wanted to be a teacher since I was a teenager. I’ve always enjoyed working with children, whether it was babysitting or tutoring. When I was applying to colleges, education was the only major that interested me. I became a teacher to motivate, encourage and share my love of learning with students.

Why GMercyU

I chose GMercyU for in Early Childhood Education and Special Education because of the faculty and Teacher Apprentice Program (TAP). I remember coming to campus for an Open House with my mother, and the Education faculty welcomed me with open arms. At Open House, I spoke to Ms. Pierantozzi, who took the time to answer all of my questions. I did not feel like she was rushing to go to the next prospective student. This stood out to me because it reiterated that GMercyU was a smaller and more personable school. Coming from a larger University, I was not use to this interaction with faculty. 

I also choose GMercyU because of the TAP program. As a first-time transfer, I did a lot of research about education programs. GMercyU’s program stood out to me because of TAP. TAP allows students to enter the field as a freshman compared to other programs where you do not enter a classroom until much later. GMercyU encouraged students to get into the field to learn best practices and the strategies needed to be a teacher.

GMercyU Experience

Throughout my education at GMercyU, I was a Griffin Ambassador. Griffin Ambassadors provide information and campus tours to prospective students. Being a Griffin Ambassador was one of the highlights of my college career. This program allowed me to stay involved on campus and meet new people. My closest friends were Griffin Ambassadors. 

As a Griffin Ambassador, I became sort of a liaison for the Education program. Due to my course work and field placement experience, I was knowledgeable about the Education program offered on campus. As a result, I worked closely with Ms. Pierantozzi and Dr. Schadler to share information about GMercyU's Education program to prospective students.

Throughout my TAP experience, I learned several strategies, programs, and best practices that I use in my classroom today. I was fortunate to be placed in several general education and special education classrooms across the Montgomery County area ranging from Kindergarten through Sixth Grade. I was able to learn new skills with each grade as they differ tremendously. My cooperating teachers and supervisors were a valuable resource. I still contact them today with questions and to share ideas. 

The highlight of my TAP experience was getting the opportunity to teach the class. One of my favorite lessons that I taught was a math Jeopardy Game for the Concepts of Money to a fourth-grade class. The students were so excited and engaged in the lesson. This prepared me for having a classroom of my own. 

Student-Teaching Through COVID-19

My last semester at GMercyU was not what I expected as a freshman. My student-teaching placement was 100% remote. In this placement, students received four days of synchronous instruction and one day of asynchronous instruction per week. I co-taught a fifth-grade class with a supportive cooperating teacher and University supervisor. I fully immersed myself in the district’s culture through professional learning communities, professional developments, and faculty meetings. This experience allowed me to see the daily challenges of teaching during a pandemic.

As a result of this experience, there was one thing I was able to take away from my placement - equity. Regardless of an educational format, equity plays a vital role in education. In a virtual setting, students have various factors impacting their Education. For example, internet connection plays a huge role in providing an equitable education to all. As teachers, we must think outside of the box to provide an equitable education to all of our students regardless of the instructional model.

Throughout my time at GMercyU, the one thing we were taught time and time again was flexibility. As a teacher, you must be flexible with your schedule and planning to meet your students’ needs. During this uncertain time, flexibility is a must as things are continually changing. For example, technology and internet connection is continuously evolving in a hybrid setting. It is always essential to have a plan B and sometimes even C with your lessons.

Throughout my TAP, Pre-Student Teaching, and Student Teaching, I learned a lot about Social Emotional Learning (SEL). During this unprecedented time, things are continually changing for young children. It is vital that students feel as though they have a connection in a classroom. It is difficult for students to feel connected regardless of their instructional model.

It is important to build relationship skills and support systems with your students. I incorporate SEL into my classroom daily. When I first began my position, it was important that I get to know my students before speeding 100 miles per hour into the academics. I used get-to-know-you activities and sharing opportunities to establish a bond and class community in my virtual and physical classroom. I frequently check in with my students. In addition, to check in’s, every Friday we do an activity called “Rose, Bud, Thorn.” Through this activity, students share different aspects of their week inside the classroom and outside of school. I create a safe place for students to share if they would like.

As an educator, I believe students thrive in a nurturing environment, which is necessary during COVID-19.

Post Graduation Success

My job hunt was a bit unusual. It all started midway through my virtual student teaching placement when my cooperating teacher asked me to send her my resume. My resume was then shared with the principal and later the Human Resources department. Almost a month later, I received a call offering me a position with the school district. I had two interviews for various positions in the school district. My position changed several times before I officially started a month later. I began my job prematurely due to the need for teachers during the pandemic. I have been working as a third-grade teacher with the Abington School District since December 2020.