Shannon (Hastings) Baker '04

Shannon (Hastings) Baker '04

More than any other experience in my life, I owe my success in the field of education to the Psychology/Education program at Mount Holyoke. Immediately following graduation, I moved to Washington D.C. and taught 5th grade at a public school in Loudoun County. I was surprised at the time what an easy transition it was for me into my own classroom. My student teaching experience provided me with so much responsibility and support, that my teaching choices felt natural. I pulled from my course work with my small-group cohort and also my multiple observational practicum placements while making choices on curriculum development and classroom management. I was able to enter the classroom with complete confidence in my own teaching.

Following one year teaching in Virginia, I was offered an amazing opportunity to start a new grade level at an independent school in Reno, Nevada. At the time, the school offered 6th -12th grade and they wanted to add a 5th grade to the middle school. Knowing that this was something very few people have the opportunity to do, I jumped at the chance. I was given complete freedom in my choices for curriculum. I decided what I wanted to cover in the 5th grade year and selected texts and classroom structures. As I was making these choices, I relied completely on the philosophical guidance that the MHC program gave us. I knew when I graduated that I had my own personal philosophy on how children learn, how to approach teaching, and what I want to get out of a classroom experience. This knowledge helped me make this new grade level a success.

I have been running the 5th grade at this school for four years and have also been given administrative responsibilities hiring new 5th grade teachers, running the lower middle school, and becoming a parent-teacher liaison. I met my husband (the athletic director) at school and have been living and breathing middle school life ever since. This summer we are moving to New York City for a new phase of our lives. I will be pursuing school administration in the teacher leadership program at the Klingenstein Center at Columbia University. However, I always enjoy the attention and respect that my attendance of the MHC Psych/Ed program brings me. Employers have told me that they have heard only good things about the program and that it rivals the best graduate education programs in the nation. I know that MHC is the reason I have gone so far and been given so much responsibility in such a short time. I will never forget the nurturing, supportive faculty and the valuable lessons I learned.