Bridging The Gap
Kristen Abbet '00 MATESL
Abbett says Simmons showed her how to teaching within a framework while still maintaining a student-centered cooperative learning approach.
Kristen Abbett always knew she wanted to teach, she just didn't know what or whom. Trips to South Africa and Nicaragua, and a stint as an assistant teacher at a local high school, provided her with the experiences she needed to answer those questions.
"I love travel and getting to know people from different cultures," explains Abbett. "And during my time as an assistant teacher, I enjoyed the students and working with English Language Learning subject matter. After that, it was like the light bulb came on."
Abbett determined that teaching English Language Learning (ELL) was her professional goal, so she set out to accomplish that with a degree from Simmons. "I knew I wanted to be in Boston, and Simmons was by far the best place for me. The MATESL program was small, which I preferred, because I had already experienced a large institution as an undergraduate. And, it was well-rounded — presenting various methods for teaching English. Simmons prepared me above and beyond my expectations."
With that preparation, Abbett headed to Mexico for nine months to hone her Spanish-language skills. When she returned, she landed a job as an ELL teacher at Newton North High School, a school district with one of the toughest hiring practices. "My student teaching experience at Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School was a plus for me," says Abbett.
Now she teaches ELL U.S. history, world history and English to grades 9-12. "One of my ELL classes just finished writing, producing, and performing a play about their experiences moving to the United States. They performed it for 150 people in the school's theater. This was an incredibly empowering experience for them. The stage gave them the opportunity to share valuable information with other students, teachers, counselors, and parents. It also gave them self-confidence, recognition, and the necessary skills for academic success.
The MATESL program at Simmons taught me the importance of bridging the gap between ELL students and the rest of the community. It also prepared me for teaching within the frameworks while still maintaining a very successful student-centered cooperative learning approach."