If you ask Brenda Contreras what her time at Oregon State has provided her, she’ll answer in one word: opportunities.
Opportunities such as scholarships, a chance to teach near her hometown, and experience in a dual-language classroom.
The former Oregon State psychology graduate is now finishing her first year in the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program in clinically based elementary. The two-year master’s degree program features courses delivered online through Oregon State Ecampus and in-person co-teaching experience in the Beaverton School District near Portland.
As part of the program, Brenda spends her days immersed in classrooms, gaining hands-on teaching experience. Each morning she looks forward to the start of the school day. “Greeting them at the door and setting up for the school day, that’s my favorite time,” she says.
Brenda didn’t originally envision herself as a teacher, but a part time job at a child care facility and her own positive experiences in her education helped her realize her love for working with children.
As a psychology major, Brenda considered herself to be “out of the loop” when it came to the many opportunities the OSU College of Education offers its students.
“It wasn’t until after I started working in childcare that someone told me OSU had a really great teaching program,” she says. “I would go to restaurants in Corvallis and run into people who would tell me about the program.”
But it was more than strong community support that inspired Brenda to apply to the M.A.T. program.
“When I learned Oregon State had a partnership with Beaverton School District, I was sold because it’s so close to home,” She says. Now, Brenda teaches in classrooms less than ten miles from her hometown.
Her favorite subject to teach is math, although she also enjoys teaching reading, writing, art, and science, spending time in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) classrooms.
Since one of the school she teaches at also features Spanish dual-language immersion classes, where students are instructed in both Spanish and English, Brenda – and the students she teaches – gain an additional layer of opportunities to explore.
“There’s a lot of research that shows this dual-language model helps ELL (English Language Learner) students,” she says.
The ELL students benefit from learning in their native language while also learning English slowly, over the course of their elementary education.
The dual language model also benefits students those who aren’t considered ELL. “They learn to read and write in Spanish,” she says. “It’s also more likely they will be bilingual growing up and in the future.”
The ELL program model at Brenda’s school begins in kindergarten with classes taught completely in Spanish, tapering off to 80 percent Spanish instruction in first and second grades, and finally settling into half Spanish and half English instruction in third grade.
Brenda is grateful for the many opportunities Oregon State has provided her, especially the partnership Oregon State has with local school districts.
“People [from Oregon State] are getting hired. People are making those connections in the school district and so many of them I know already have jobs.” she says.
She appreciates the diverse classrooms she’s been able to work in, and the wealth of experience the M.A.T. program has already provided her.
“I don’t get to work at just one school, I’ve worked at multiple schools at the district where I’ve seen different demographics and different school cultures,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of connections at all these schools, and it’s because of Oregon State.”