Posted May 15, 2014

Temple Made: MaryKate Higgins

Video Production: Gina Benigno

Name: MaryKate Higgins

Year: Senior

School: College of Education

Major: Early childhood education

Hometown: Hanover, Pa.

Why I chose Temple: “My hometown is really small. I wanted something different. I was attracted to Temple because it’s in a city, but I was worried at first because it would be culture shock. There were only 105 students in my high school graduating class—I was used to knowing everyone. But I found out that Temple’s College of Education is like a small community within a larger university. And then there was Temple’s Honors Program. I met with an Honors peer mentor. He took me to one of his classes, and two other Honors students took me and my mom to lunch. I met with Ruth Ost, the director of the Honors Program. The next day I made my decision and made my deposit. I knew that I wouldn’t just be treated like a number. I knew I wouldn’t be lost.”

Transformative experience: “My first transformative experience was working with Tree House Books, a non-profit organization on a mission to grow a community of readers and writers in North Philadelphia. Working with Tree House Books has played a huge role in defining my time at Temple. At first I thought it was just helping children with their homework, but it’s more than that. It’s really about becoming a mentor. The kids we work with grow up a few blocks from Temple, yet they often can’t see themselves going to college. Changing that is one of our goals. We talk a lot about college. It’s helping us bridge the boundary between Temple and the community around us.

“Also, when I applied, I knew that Temple worked closely with the School District of Philadelphia. I’ve had opportunities to teach in Philadelphia as part of the College of Education’s Practicum since the first semester of my sophomore year. I’m student-teaching right now at Duckrey Elementary, a school that’s right next to campus. I’ve been there for the whole semester—15 weeks, every day, from 8:30 to 3:30 or 4.

“It’s real-world experience. When you come into the classroom, you’re immediately thrown into a situation where you need to learn your students and how they prefer to learn. I’ve been able to jump in, prepare whole-group and small-group lessons and try out new things. It’s really great practice.

“Becoming part of the Duckrey community has been amazing. I’ve been able to step out of my comfort zone and take advantage of opportunities I wouldn’t have gotten if I’d gone to school somewhere else. A lot of people questioned why I chose Duckrey because it’s underserved and has challenges. I went into it thinking I’m going to get a lot out of this experience—I was going to learn a lot, and it was going to test me. I’ve always identified with the students who needed the most help. When you teach in an urban school, you’re really making a difference with people who really need you most.

“I’m in the Accelerated 4+1 Program, which is an accelerated master’s program. After completing the program, you get a B.S. in early childhood and elementary education, a master’s degree in special education, and you're eligible to apply for two teaching certificates. I wanted to do it because so many classrooms now are inclusive classrooms. I need to be prepared to work with students who have disabilities. I want to be able to meet the needs of all my learners.

“I definitely think Temple has made me real-world ready. I’ve had so many different types of experiences—I’ve been in a special-ed room; I’ve been in a school where it’s primarily English language learners; I’ve been in kindergarten—and that prepares you for looking for a job. It’s import to be adaptable. Temple has helped me with that.”