“I’ve wanted to be a teacher my whole life, since kindergarten actually,” says UVM Early Childhood Education major Sandra King. “On the first day I thought, I want to do this forever.”
The Junior from Westchester, New York is impressed by how much she is learning about inclusive practices to reach her current and future students on an individual basis. Through UVM’s distinctive “early and often” approach for aspiring educators to gain practical experience in the field, King is quickly gaining confidence while honing her craft.
This semester she is working with kindergarteners at Allen Brook School in Williston – her third practicum and fourth field experience as a student so far. On top of that, she recently accepted a job as the lead teacher for an older toddler classroom at Loveworks.
Two of her previous practicums were at Trinity Children’s Center in Burlington. “The teachers were so welcoming and amazing at mentoring me and taking me under their wings,” she recalls. “I learned so much about what high quality care can be, and who I can be as a teacher. I really developed my teaching practice there, and would not be as strong of a teacher as I am now without that experience.”
To recognize King’s strong commitment and actions to promote diversity, equity and inclusion with early childhood education practices, The College of Education and Social Services and the Mosaic Center for Students of Color recently presented her with their 2020 Academic and Social Justice Distinction Award.
Faculty in the Early Childhood Education Program note King’s remarkable energy and and skillful approach in taking on a student leadership role as a peer mentor in the program. “Serving as a service-learning teaching assistant through UVM’s Office of Community-Engaged Learning, Sandra recently set up virtual meet ups with first-year students to provide valuable support, insight and partnership,” explains Program Coordinator Lauren MacKillop.
“Sandra is one of the most vibrant and positive students I have had the pleasure to work with over the years,” says King’s advisor, Dr. Jen Hurley. “Our UVM community and the many local young children she supports benefit from her commitment to social justice and upbeat spirit.”
“Faculty in the Early Childhood Education Program are awesome,” says King emphatically. “I am so close with my professors. All of the faculty I encounter in the program are so welcoming and supportive. I can turn to them with anything and they will accept me. Recently I have been reaching out to them to collaborate and come up with new ideas for my classroom at Loveworks.”
Her favorite class at UVM by far, King says, was ECSP 105 Individualized Practice for Inclusion, taught by Lori Meyer, which focuses on the learning and development needs of children with or at-risk for disabilities and other diverse needs. “That course introduced so many Special Education and UDL (Universal Design for Learning) strategies in my teaching practice,” says King. “Taking that class changed me as a teacher completely and filled my tool box to the brim. I would not be as prepared as I am today without that class."
Relationships with peers in her cohort are an important source of support and inspiration as well. As a result, it feels like a tight-knit community of colleagues and friends.
Beyond her academic coursework and teaching experiences in the local community, King engages with the social and service-oriented aspects of student life as a member of Tri Delta, and as vice president of public relations and marketing for UVM Sisters of Color.
Exercise is another important aspect of her healthy, balanced approach. “I am always finding paths, recreational parks or trails. There is one in Stowe that I went on recently with my best friend and it was fantastic. I love finding waterfalls and swimming holes and just adventuring around Vermont. I also enjoy going to outdoor yoga classes and just driving around and sightseeing, and of course the shopping on Church Street.”
After completing her bachelor's degree, the Junior from Westchester, New York plans to earn her master’s degree through UVM’s Accelerated Master’s Pathway in Early Childhood Special Education, which she will begin during senior year. She looks forward to a career teaching diverse groups of children in inclusive schools.
“If I were to do it all over again, I would choose only UVM,” she says. “It is an amazing school and the education program is so advanced and supportive. I feel prepared to go out and do my thing in the world.”