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Texas A&M senior Monica Spradlin '17 found her professional calling at an academic crossroads, choosing to follow her passion to make a difference all the way to the head of her own future classroom as a participant in and current president of the aggieTEACH Program.

COLLEGE STATION --

Disruptive, defiant and generally out of control -- a classroom full of the type of students who would make any new teacher second-guess their career choice.

Yet Monica Spradlin '17, a mathematics major at Texas A&M University, inexplicably found herself drawn to them.

For 10 weeks this past spring, Spradlin sat as an observer within a local disciplinary alternative education placement school for 7th and 8th graders. She assisted when needed, which was more often than not, and quietly noted that some students acted out for attention, while others displayed all the hallmarks of obvious behavioral issues.

Regardless of their motivation, Spradlin made it a point to personally help the students with their assignments. As she did, she noticed their attitudes drastically improved with the one-on-one interaction -- to the point that they began taking a genuine interest in their schoolwork.

Spradlin likewise experienced her own epiphany, coming to the realization somewhere during the observational process that the so-called "bad kids" often are anything but.

"It's kind of a double-edged sword," Spradlin explained. "It was so exciting to see that these students actually cared about their education, but it was also really sad knowing that a lot of teachers won't put up with their attitude, and so they get sent to an alternative school instead of getting a true education in a classroom. They need kindness, love and patience.

"Above all, they need patience."

Spradlin hopes to one day apply that doctrine to students of her own as a high school mathematics teacher. The Friendswood native is simultaneously earning her applied mathematics degree through the Department of Mathematics and her Texas high school mathematics teaching certificate via the aggieTEACH program, Texas A&M's nationally peer-reviewed teacher recruitment and preparation model. And she's not just a member; she also serves as the program's president.

A collaborative effort between the College of Science and the College of Education and Human Development, aggieTEACH enables undergraduates to become certified middle and high school mathematics and science teachers -- positions in high demand statewide and nationally -- while completing their major in the traditional four years. The program boasts a 100 percent job placement rate and has helped position the university as the state leader in university trained math and science teacher production for more than a decade.

Watch an interview with Monica Spradlin '17 in which she discusses her role as the president of aggieTEACH and the value she sees in quality K-12 education:



For Spradlin, the decision to pursue teaching was the result of finding herself at an academic crossroads during her sophomore year. Up to that point, she had planned to enroll in medical school after graduation but became disenchanted with some of the required undergraduate coursework.

When she volunteered to proctor a 5th grade UIL exam later that year, Spradlin recalls that something about the school environment just "felt right." Moreover, she was enjoying mentoring high school youth as a Young Life leader at the time and suspected she could establish a similar bond with them in a classroom setting.

After some personal reflection and careful deliberation, Spradlin made the decision to embark on a new career path in education and hasn't looked back.

"Education, to me, means a gateway to a better life," Spradlin said. "Without education, there is no mobility in society, and that's been proven in a lot of cases. Without teachers, without education and without schools, our society wouldn't go anywhere."

Students enrolled in aggieTEACH obtain more than just a teaching certificate; they also get opportunities to develop their skills as leaders. Throughout the year, students participate in workshops that focus on lesson planning and classroom management. They also engage in service learning by speaking at recruiting events for high schools and junior colleges and volunteering at various outreach programs.

"I get to see students like Monica start on a goal that will impact the rest of their life," said Jennifer Whitfield, an instructional assistant professor in mathematics and director of aggieTEACH. "Watching them grow from the time they start at Texas A&M to when they get to their senior year to do their student teaching -- and watching them flourish -- is indescribable."

As president, Spradlin is directly involved in aggieTEACH's day-to-day operations and overall direction. She meets frequently with its student-led committees to delegate matters regarding external relations and funding, and she works closely with Whitfield and program assistant Laura Wilding to develop strategies to increase student engagement.

While Spradlin readily admits the teaching profession isn't necessarily for everyone, she says aggieTEACH offers a solid opportunity for interested students to test-drive their teaching potential through SCEN 201. The one-hour seminar course, which is required for admission into aggieTEACH, provides an in-depth look at the education field and all the highlights and challenges it encompasses. In addition to learning about issues teachers encounter on a daily basis, students spend one hour each week observing in local classrooms to get a realistic picture of the public school system and actual middle- and secondary classroom environment.

"SCEN 201 is honestly the best way you can tell if you want to be a teacher or not, because if you go into that classroom and you hate every second of it, then you shouldn't be a teacher," Spradlin said. "But if you love it, aggieTEACH is going to be a great resource for you.

"I think that you can be passionate about whatever your subject is, but if you don't love the kids that you're dealing with every single day, you're not going to succeed."

For Spradlin, it's more than just textbook learning; it's about changing lives.

"I think a lot of people can say that they did have one teacher that changed their life in some way, shape or form," Spradlin said. "That is my calling -- helping a student. Even if it's one student my whole entire career as a teacher, I think that my life would be fulfilled after that."

For more information on the aggieTEACH program, visit http://aggieteach.tamu.edu/.

-aTm-

Contact: Chris Jarvis, (979) 845-7246 or cjarvis@science.tamu.edu or Jennifer Whitfield, (979) 845-3220 or jwhitfld@tamu.edu

Jarvis Chris

  • Spradlin outlines the basics of aggieTEACH for a group of incoming education majors from the College of Education and Human Development.

  • As president of aggieTEACH, Spradlin is directly involved in the program's day-to-day operations and overall direction, working closely with program leaders Jennifer Whitfield (left) and Laura Wilding (right) to develop strategies to increase student engagement.

  • Spradlin, flashing a gig 'em outside her campus home away from home, the John R. Blocker Building.

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