Mathew Oldfield says the difficulties aspiring teachers face today boil down to one thing: money.
“Money is always on someone’s mind,” the Double-Degree student says. “And when money is on your mind, that means school isn’t.”
The one-time physics major is an expert at keeping school on his mind. Inspired by his first class at Oregon State, chemistry with Professor Richard Nafshun, he changed majors and threw himself into a new field of study. “Professor Nafshun just brought so much energy and excitement. I was immediately like, ‘OK, I’m not doing physics anymore, I’m doing chemistry.’”
Mathew says that changing majors didn’t daunt him. “I learned a long while ago that in order to pursue something you need to be interested in it, not good at it.”
He was drawn to the College of Education’s Double-Degree program so he could explore his new interest in chemistry and his older passion for teaching. In middle school, he helped his classmates learn grammar and spelling. In high school, he began taking over as substitute teacher in the band classroom as well.
An open fourth period his senior year of high school revealed his love of science education. “People would come in with problems in one of their science classes, whether it be physics, chemistry, or biology. I just got to sit there and help them.”
Despite suffering from “senioritus,” Mathew says that knowing he could help his friends at school invigorated him. “It was the one thing I looked forward to coming to school each day.”
Mathew gained even more teaching experience at Oregon State. This Spring concluded his second full year TAing for the chemistry department. His time TAing has had him drafting lesson plans, managing classrooms, and performing duties in the “Mole Hole,” the on-campus chemistry tutoring center.
Mathew will begin his student teaching at Lebanon High School this fall. While he enjoyed his experience TAing, he is excited to begin working with high schoolers. “I’m looking forward to working with the age group I want to spend my professional life teaching,” he says.
Mathew is confident that he’ll enjoy teaching at the high school level. “I have yet to find an age group that I don’t get along with,” he says. “I’ve worked with middle schoolers, I’ve worked with college students. It seems somewhere in all of this I missed out on working with high schoolers, which is what I plan to do for a living.”
Before Mathew can enter the classroom, however, he must put money back on his mind. Mandatory licensure fees, exam fees, and fingerprinting fees must be paid before Mathew can receive licensure.
He says that fee waivers for students would “help alleviate, even just a little bit, that particular stress and mental burden,” and allow students to focus more on their education.
“Those sort of fees, although not hidden, often feel that way when you’re presented them,” he says. Students who are already saddled with loans, debt, tuition, and rent feel that additional fees submerge them completely. “It [feels] like, the water’s already up to your neck,” he says. “Let’s just bring that up further so maybe you can breath through your nose.”