Student Testimonials

Let's Teach, Nevada

The UNR College of Education upholds a reputation of excellence in guiding and mentoring high-performing education professionals. This 2016, testimonials from our teacher education students and alumni are featured on this page. Do you have a story to share? Email us or tell us on social media using #LetsTeachNV.

Whether you're a high school student, a university student, or a working adult, we have options for you. Get started by checking out our academic programs and discovering which degree will pave the right path for you.

Jamie Carroll, elementary school teacher

My name is Jamie Carroll, Jamie at her deskand I will be graduating in May from the College of Education. This college has shaped me into becoming a well-prepared, passionate, and knowledgeable teacher who is ready to take on the world!

I remember telling people four years ago that I was accepted into the teaching program. Although I can recall excitement and proud sentiments, one phrase was said to me more frequently than anything else: How nice it will be to have such an easy major!

At first I laughed, because I thought they were right. I would learn how to stand in front of a classroom and teach children by using textbooks and fun activities. I would walk in, talk all day, and have students take tests and write journal entries, then leave because my job (or so I thought) was done. I went into this program very naïve of how much work a teacher truly does to have a successful classroom with motivated and engaged students. So as I went on, I got defensive of that comment because it was simply not the case at all!

As I prepare to leave this university, I must say that a degree in education is exhausting, intense, and requires a ton of dedication. Teaching requires an initial passion, and if the candidate does not have that, the work and effort is simply not worth it. But I knew teaching was my passion, so I put in my hard work and effort every semester, every class, and every assignment. It is important to note that not every class will push you to your fullest, and that's okay because they were still interactive, hands on, and engaging. However, the classes that pushed me the most, are the ones that I now feel fully competent in the material. Two professors especially, Dr. Melissa Burnham and Dr. Julie Pennington, taught intensive, rigorous courses during my program. They both required me to put in all my energy, focus, heart, and soul into the assignments, tutoring sessions, and practicum experiences. Because of these two professors and their classes, I feel competent in the areas of knowledge they taught. I now know what it's like to reflect, analyze, and critique my work in order to give students a great learning experience. I am experienced in creating detailed lesson plans, building focused activities using curriculum and common core standards, and setting specific goals for individual students to achieve in their learning development.

As I walk across the stage this May, I want people to know one thing and one thing only: this degree was a labor of love. It was not even an ounce of easy. This degree meant changing my weekly schedule to include practicum hours, lesson plan sessions, and meeting peers in the LRC's graphics room to make materials for our students. Lastly, this degree showed me that teaching is not an easy profession, but rather a profession that requires a passionate, skilled, and dedicated candidate. After my experience in the College of Education, I believe I am now that passionate, skilled, and dedicated candidate, ready to start my teaching career.

Travis Hickox, NevadaTeach student

At the beginning of Step 1, Travis Hickox in NevadaTeach shirt I had never been in a classroom before to actually observe and then eventually teach. It was somewhat of an overwhelming experience with thoughts of, "Am I really ready for this? Ready for a real classroom with real learners?"

But you have to start somewhere and that is exactly what this class was for. With us meeting once a week we really covered a lot or at least it felt that way and I think we learned the most in the classroom hands on. It felt like such a learning curve to get used to but having both the mentor teachers and master teacher's support was everything.

Creativity in effective inquiry-based lessons
As a new teacher I had to really think about how I learned stuff in fourth grade throughout this semester. Explaining seemingly simple things to learners that is now common knowledge to myself was very interesting and at times I really needed to be creative. I couldn't be too formal and to the point all the time especially since I was teaching for understanding. I couldn't just tell them the answers or what to do and expect it to stay in their heads. I needed to show and at times let them struggle with a situation for a little bit. Even when I so badly wanted to tell them an easy and simple way to do it. I just had to keep reminding myself, "How long is it going to stay in their heads if I just tell them what to do?" Questioning learners went along with this too. Besides reflecting and revaluation I feel teaching is a lot about questions and asking the right ones. It is so hard to come up with good questions and remember to ask them during the lesson. I was surprised how creative I had to get with my questioning to avoid just giving them the answer.

Honing in on classroom management
I have grown a lot when it comes teaching over this semester. The one thing I want to work on still is classroom management. I don't think I have the tools yet to effectively deal with misbehavior within the classroom. There were times during my teaches when I just didn't know how to handle a situation properly off the bat in order to bring an individual back on task and not be disruptive to others. I know with time I will probably learn of come up with proper methods and strategies.

Reaching new levels of confidence and endurance
By being in the classroom I got an idea of the kind of teacher I am and got ideas for the teacher I want to be for my learners one day. I am really going to miss my fourth grade class, it was such an awesome experience. In just one semester and through a couple of teaches and observations we got a real taste of what it's like to be a teacher and how flexible you have to be. My biggest thought is still, "Dang it was exhausting to teach one period how do they teach a whole day's worth of lesson plans!" I know we will work up the stamina for a whole day's worth of teaching, then when I look back at this experience we can laugh about how hard I thought just doing one lesson was.

Chandler Wright, third grade teacher

I cannot fully express the gratitudeChandler in her classroom I have for the University of Nevada, College of Education. Every class shaped me as a professional and prepared me for the real-life workforce of being an educator.

You often hear "horror stories" of being a first year teacher, however, from the skills, strategies, and passion I learned and developed during my years as an undergraduate I feel completely confident in providing each and every one of my students with the differentiated, rigorous education they need and deserve.

I remember my first ever education class being EDU 201. In this particular course it is the first time where you are placed in a Washoe County school and observe and interact with teachers and students in the field. It was in this class where I was first introduced to the concept of letting passion lead your decisions. Of course, it is absolutely essential to being a successful educator to align your curriculum with the state standards, which give your students the greatest chance of a solidifying foundational skills to pave the way for a successful future, however this isn't what will keep your students engaged wanting to come back each day. I fully believe that the foundation of a successful classroom is the relationships that teachers build with their students. These relationships are built by teachers who truly love what they do and show passion for not only the curriculum, but more so the students. From the passion my College of Education professors exuded week by week, it was continuously drilled into my routine to make sure students know, above all, that they are loved, accepted, wanted and that they can succeed in whatever they do. It is our job, as educators, to teach them those skills to succeed and make the material engaging enough for them to "buy in" to what we are "selling." Every discussion, lesson plan and paper I wrote during my years as a student in the College of Education prepared me for where I am today. My special education endorsement prepared me for differentiated each lesson to meet the needs of all the learners in my classroom and to be an advocate for everyone who enters my room. The endorsement of Teaching English as a Second Language taught me strategies to ensure all my students, especially those who are learning English, have the same access to the grade-level educational material. Overall, I am confident that if it were not for my education at the University of Nevada, I would not be the teacher I am today.

Kenneth Ronquillo, secondary education student (mathematics)

Hi everyone! My name is Kenneth, Kenneth Ronquillobut in this case you can also call me Mr. Ronquillo. That is pronounced Ron-quill-o; if you still can't say it Mr. R is fine too. I am currently in my middle school practicum. So far my experience in this school is amazing.

I feel like I am fully immersing myself in the classroom by learning all the students' names, getting to know them, and even teaching a few lessons to them when I'm there. My lead teacher is very helpful in giving me feedback on my lessons and how I teach, but what I am learning the most from him is working with students who misbehave consistently.

Most of his students are well behaved, have a want to learn, and are fun. However, one of his classes was the most energy-draining hour of my day. The first time I taught that class, I had a whole activity for them to do after teaching the lesson, but I was not able to get through the lesson because of one student. I did not want to be that teacher that sends a student to the office, so I kept the student in class and trekked through the lesson. The bell rang and this was the only class that day that wasn't able to participate in my activity.

The next time I saw my lead teacher, he gave me advice on how to handle this one student and those who are similar. His advice was to separate the student from his/her friends, send him/her to the hallway to talk one-on-one and identify the problem, and do not be afraid to send the student to the office when it is necessary. He also said you can't always be the nice or cool teacher, sometimes you have to be the one to lay down the rules to keep the classroom environment in order.

I substituted for him again a couple weeks later and I was anticipating for that one period of students to walk through that door. After taking attendance, I had another lesson prepared to teach them about motivation and initiative. Again, that student talked back and was disrespectful. I took my lead teacher's advice and tried to speak with the student in the hallway but s/he deflected my attempts. I ultimately had to sent the student to the office in order to continue to teach the lesson to the rest of the class.

At the end of the school day, I had gained a new outlook in my teaching abilities. You have to put in the effort to teach all students, but realize that not all students will have the want to learn. Those students need to first learn about their actions and decide if it's the appropriate for the setting they are in.

Later that week, in my practicum observations I assisted the students who needed help with their assignments. When it was time for that class, the students seemed to respect me more. I don't know if it was because my lead teacher was there, but I felt like it was because they now know that I am capable of holding some type of authority in the classroom.

This experience has not discouraged me from becoming a teacher at all. In fact, it wants me to become teacher so much more. Aside from teaching my favorite subject to students, I want to be able to teach them about respect for others, emotions, and life in general to better them for the future.

Elizabeth Anderson, IETP student (emphasis in special ed)

I always thought that Elizabeth AndersonI could make a good teacher. My mom worked in the school system when I was growing up, and I watched her, thinking it looked like a pretty fun gig.

I have always loved going to school and I tend to get along with children very well. I thought that the only thing the integrated elementary teaching program would help me with was preparing me with strategies and solidifying content that I already learned.

I was right; the program did do those things. But looking back, those things are miniscule compared to what else I learned. What stands out more than anything is that a passion was stirred inside of me, which filled me with an overwhelming sense of purpose and determination in life. I chose to emphasize in special education, and the subject truly exhilarated me like none other before. One class in particular I found to be absolutely outstanding. EDSP 432, serving individuals with disabilities and their families, really enlightened me. With almost every activity and every project that I completed I genuinely felt that I had personally grown and advanced toward my end goal. One activity I especially enjoyed was a parent panel comprised of parents of children with varying disabilities. Hearing the personal stories of these strong and kindhearted parents really made me realize how important it is for me to become an excellent special education teacher. I had never really considered what life might be like for family members of people with serious disabilities, but now it is something that I take into account daily when interacting with strangers in the real world. The most imperative information that I’ve received from the teaching program is that my degree is not about me. I push myself to succeed in every class because of the students whose happiness in life and success in school greatly depend on a positive experience with special education.

Julie Begbie (Tompkins), literacy specialist & PhD candidate

The time I spent in my undergrad at the University of Nevada Julie with students in her classroomwas filled with many beneficial experiences. As a hands on learner, I greatly benefited from the time I spent during fieldwork. It was finally a chance to take all that I had learned and put it to the test!

Although I enjoyed reading textbooks and listening to lectures, it wasn't until I was out in the "field" that I realized how much I actually knew and did not know. While doing my middle school practicum, I realized that teaching middle school was the age group that I preferred. The next semester I went to Reno High School to do my practicum with a former English teacher that both my sister and I had the pleasure of having during our time as Reno Huskies! It was amazing to be able to work with a teacher that I highly revered and have her provide me with resources, materials and constructive criticism. After both of my practicum experiences, I felt more aware of all that goes into being a teacher, and how the information I learned in my university classes tied into the practice within the classroom.

After graduation in 2002, I moved down to Las Vegas, where I did my student teaching. UNR was very accommodating in placing me in a school in Las Vegas, and they worked well with me from a distance. During my student teaching, I learned an immense amount of information in just one semester. Each day when I left my student teaching experience, I felt both exhausted and exhilarated by all that I learned and all the areas that I was being stretched and challenged. My lead teacher was fabulous, and our personalities fit together well. We remain friends to this day. After student teaching, I gained a clearer picture of who I was as a teacher and how I wanted to run my future classroom.

I continued to teach in Las Vegas until 2005, and then moved back to Reno and began teaching at Traner Middle School. I taught ELA classes to 7th and 8th graders until 2013, when I decided to get my Master's Degree as a Literacy Specialist. I moved to New York City to attend Columbia University for my Master's, where I learned a tremendous amount about teaching, literacy and life. Upon graduation, I moved back to Reno, and returned to my beloved Traner Middle School where I am now teaching Tier III Reading Support classes to students who read in the bottom 10th percentile. I find this new teaching assignment to be greatly challenging, yet incredibly rewarding. In addition, I have returned to the University of Nevada, where I am currently working on a Ph.D. in Literacy Studies to help increase my understanding and ability to help my students. I am thrilled and honored to be learning from the esteemed College of Education faculty, specifically Dr. Townsend, Dr. Barone and Dr. Wiest.

As we know, teaching is all about making a difference in the lives of the students we teach, and I am blessed to say that I get the opportunity every day to help these middle school students improve their reading confidence and ability. I am forever grateful to all the professors and colleagues from the University of Nevada who have been a part of my educational journey!

Carolann Cavallo, ELL teacher

I am currently an ELL teacher here in Reno. Carolann with studentsOur school has three ELL teachers and I work specifically with first and third grade. At UNR, I majored in Elementary Education with an ELL endorsement, and I also majored in Spanish and minored in TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages).

Funny enough, when I entered college, I did not think that I was going to be strictly an ELL teacher. My hope was to have my own classroom in the early elementary grades. However, my mind was changed after I studied abroad with USAC. I had the opportunity to take a trip to San Sebastián in the Fall of 2012, and after working for USAC for a year, I took a second trip to Santiago, Chile in the Summer of 2014. During those adventures, I found a passion for language learning and working with people from other cultures.

When I got back from Spain, I decided to pick up the second major in Spanish. The second major required me to pick up another minor, so I decided that I would dig deeper into the linguistics part of ELL with the TESOL minor. I accredit my time studying abroad to be the experience that drove my career choice, but the support of my professors and advisors made my vision to teach ELL possible. I could apply the skills that I learned in the classroom and abroad to my student teaching, where my love for teaching and the Washoe County School District was solidified. Being from the Bay Area, I feel great giving back to Nevada, where I was given so much support to reach my career goals.

Austin Lensch, NevadaTeach student

This past semester has been nothing but great! Austin Lensch with friend AnitaI have learned so much about education, the different styles and approaches to teaching, all while getting experience in the classroom.

I am so thankful for this program and for getting classroom experience within the first semester of my Austin Lensch and friend Anita college career. This class really helped reinforce the fact that I want to be a teacher. Although I still have a long way to go, I have grown a lot within the last few months and am excited to see where else I go from here. I have grown in many areas including the use of the 5-E method, enforcing the ABC style into lesson planning, giving clear instructions as well as checking for understanding, and using questions to push students even further.

5-E Method: I have been so used to my teachers using only two out of the five E's; explain and evaluate. I have grown a lot in this method and have learned the importance of getting all of the students engaged in the lesson as well as giving them a huge portion of the time to explore the lesson and form their own ideas. I could see the difference within the three lessons I taught. The students were much more engaged than I ever was and were so excited to learn. Letting the students explore gave them a chance to feel proud of their knowledge. This is a method I will continue to use for the rest of my teaching career!
ABC Method: This is a method that I really enjoy! After watching my mentor teacher use this as well as implementing it into my own lesson, I know see the importance of having students complete an activity before giving them the content. Using this method has also made me realize how important it is to let students learn lessons by participating in activities rather than me talking the entire time. Again, I will use this method throughout my teaching career to help give my students the best education they can get.
Giving Clear Instructions/Checking for Understanding: My first lesson I used very broad instructions. It was hard for me to remember that I was dealing with 4th graders and just because I think everything I'm saying is making sense, doesn't necessarily mean they would understand it. I really focused on making sure I spent the extra needed time going over directions and making sure the whole class was aware of what was going on. I found that it was easier and more effective to have the students repeat the instructions to a neighbor and then back to the class. Hearing what was to be done at least three times helped clear up confusion. I still need to work on getting some vocabulary out of my mind. I would say "are we all good?" or "right?" a lot when checking for understanding. In my last teach I used "are there any questions?" instead. It helped get the class more comfortable in sharing and speaking up about any confusion.
Questioning: This is a category that I have grown a lot it but will continue to grow in as my education career moves along. I have come to learn the importance of asking probing questions. It is really difficult to ask the students questions without giving them the direct answer. This is something that I need to continue to work on but I have seen progress in the past few months!

Once again, I am just so thankful for this experience and can't wait to learn more in Step 2!


Do you have a story to share? Email us or tell us on social media using #LetsTeachNV.