JESSICA (GILLIGAN) PAUL
I graduated with honors from Northeastern University, Alpha Chi, in the top ten percent of my class. My degree is in Bilingual/Bicultural Education and Elementary Education with a Minor in Teaching English as a Second Language (ESL). I studied Spanish and lived in Spain for two months and now I am currently living in Göttingen, Germany where my husband is working for two years and I am learning my second language, German. I am a married mom and plan to go back to work to teach when my children are school age.
When you are so young it is hard to know how your life will turn out, you have an idea of who you want to be, but sometimes it can be so far away to think of college. I can remember to this day, it was third grade and I was inspired to be a teacher. Me, a third grade child who could hardly read or write, I knew I was not naturally good at school, but my teacher always made me feel smart and that whatever I set my mind to, I could do.
Education is seen as teaching to pass tests, but I learned early that it is about learning to learn. Our teachers knew they could not teach us everything, so we learned the skills and foundation to teach ourselves when needed; to take control of our own education. This is a skill that served me well as I moved on to middle school, I was unfortunate to encounter some teachers both in middle school and high school who did not understand how to teach me, later I learned that was due to a learning disability that I have. In Montessori we are taught to work through the problems, to work it from more than one angle, that there are multiple ways to get an answer. When I struggled in school, I was able to tell myself that there had to be another way to learn this, so I would work hard and I would find a solution. When we found out I had dyslexia my junior year in high school, they wanted to put me in special education classes to help me, however after a review of my grades and talking to my teachers, they all said the same thing, that I already had the skills to succeed in a general education class. I know it seems hard to believe that what I learned in third grade could help me in high school, but it’s true, in elementary I learned to learn. I learned to think critically and work hard for what I want. The Montessori way of teaching is what the public schools are trying so hard to replicate. They are trying to find a way to teach children to think critically, but they make the mistake in thinking all children learn or think critically the same way. Critical thinking is not something that can be tested on a standard test, it has to be observed and adjusted by a skilled teacher. The teacher’s job is to facilitate, to test and to use the information to better the student, not to give the school or teacher a grade.
I graduated from high school with a 3.8 GPA and went on to college despite my learning disability, and my high school counselors telling me I would never get into a college let alone graduate. I went on to college to become a teacher. When I was in school I saw the growing need for language learning, so I double majored in bilingual education. Seeing as I had struggled with language my whole life, and it was a teacher who helped me, I wanted to be that teacher for others. Language is language, it doesn’t matter if it is your native language or not, it is difficult to learn and work with a language. I did go on to graduate with a double major in elementary education and bilingual education, minor in teaching English as a second language. I graduated in the top ten percent of my class and with honors.
A good education is priceless, all through my schooling, as I sat there in my college classes and they taught us about this “new” way of teaching. To teach to the students, to use tests to assess the student and help them get to the next level. These are not new ideas, these are ideas I learned in third grade, and I am beyond grateful for the education I received while I attended Montessori schooling, where I learned the foundations of my education that carried me through university.