Teach in 12 graduate Lauren Scanlon brings the world to her classroom
As a student, social studies classes always captured Lauren Scanlon’s attention.
“I always had the most fun in my history classes,” she said. “I just thought that they were the most entertaining teachers I had.”
Scanlon’s interest in history and other cultures inspired her to travel. She lived abroad in Northern Ireland, taught English in South Korea and crisscrossed the country to coordinate corporate events as a travel director with Maritz.
Now Scanlon is bringing her experiences across the globe to students in the St. Louis region as she pursues a career in education.
This month Scanlon will graduate with a teaching certificate from the University of Missouri–St. Louis’ Teach in 12 program. The College of Education’s unique program allows post-bachelor’s students interested in teaching to earn their certification in about 12 months. In January, she will start her first full-time education job, teaching world history and English at Hillsboro High School.
Scanlon earned bachelor’s degrees in history and political science at the University of Missouri–Columbia before pursuing a master’s degree in Irish studies at Queen’s University Belfast in Northern Ireland. While living there, she took the opportunity to explore Europe and meet fellow travelers from around the world.
After completing her degree, Scanlon came back to the U.S. and worked as a substitute teacher when she wasn’t traveling to destinations such as Australia. But it was teaching English in South Korea where she really got her first taste of the classroom.
“It was my first introduction into teaching, and you really get thrown into it over there,” she said. “So it was a really great way to learn, very hands-on, and see what it actually entailed.”
A position as travel director at Maritz opened as Scanlon returned from South Korea. The role was a perfect fit, and she loved the work. However, the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic halted the company’s in-person events.
“I was doing it for a little over a year, and then COVID hit and travel stopped,” Scanlon said. “All sudden, my job didn’t really exist anymore. It was this big pause in all of my plans. So teaching was that thing that I thought I would go back to later in life, and then COVID just presented this opportunity for it.”
Scanlon had previously considered the Teach in 12 program when she came back from South Korea. She was attracted to the College of Education’s reputation and the efficiency of the program.When the pandemic hit, she called the advisor she had spoken to previously, Princess Davis.
“I think what really attracted me to it was the simplicity of the program,” she said. “I could see exactly what I needed to do. Other programs I’d looked at, I either had to enroll in a master’s program, so I wouldn’t get a teaching certificate until I got my master’s, or it was just confusing.”
The program has helped Scanlon develop pedagogy techniques and classroom strategies even though she had some previous experience teaching. Debbie Ponder, the UMSL College of Education clinical educator based at Jefferson College who served as Scanlon’s practicum advisor, noted that she is a natural educator who works hard to engage her students.
“It’s hard for me to take notes when observing her performance as I am so enthralled at the student participation in her class,” Ponder said. “She is an outstanding educator, has a great relationship with her students and is such an upbeat individual.”
It’s something Scanlon attributes to her time in South Korea.
“I was teaching kids that didn’t understand what I was saying, and even if they did, they understood very little of it,” Scanlon said. “So I was kind of a cartoon character, but I found that it really connected. The students were paying attention even if it was because they thought I was funny.
“Back then, I didn’t know any of the tools or techniques. I was just trying to be entertaining and hoping that they were getting something out of it. Now that I kind of understand the techniques behind it, it’s been really interesting to try and implement some more strategies as opposed to just being a goofball.”
In addition to being engaging and entertaining, Scanlon works to prioritize long-term goal setting with her students. She wants to prepare them for life after school and to show them what they’re learning has value beyond passing the next test.
“I want them to see there’s a bigger goal,” she said. “It’s not that you just need to get through it. I’ve been trying to make it more applicable. I try to bring in current events and say, ‘Hey, we were talking about Greece. Did you guys see Greece was on the news?’ Things that I think can make it fell more connected to their lives.”
As her time in the Teach in 12 program comes to an end, Scanlon is looking forward to working full-time at Hillsboro High School.
“I really am excited to be able to solely focus on teaching,” she said. “It’ll be nice to just be able to be in the classroom.”
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