Colleen Schopp is a bright young math teacher with great potential, who started her teaching career here at IMS in 2008. Indian Mountain supported her desire to take a year off to complete a Master of Education Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, and paid for a large portion of her tuition. Now back at IMS, she shares the benefits and challenges of her graduate school experience with Head of School Mark A. Devey.

MD: Colleen, please share with us some of the highlights of your graduate school experience.
CS: One of the best parts of Teachers College was being able to apply my previous knowledge and previous experiences into my coursework. My classmates ranged from newly graduated college seniors, moms of three or four children, grad students obsessed with math, and ex-wall street brokers. Although the cast of characters was experienced in the job market (on varying levels), few had been privy to a school experience like mine. I realized quickly that very few of my classmates had ever stepped foot in front of a class before. I felt that my two years of prior teaching experience had provided me with a leg above my peers. I felt I had real-life scenarios to draw from and examples to share, and was then able to gain a new fresh perspective from my classmates’ perspectives. I also felt that going into the school year I had questions I wanted answered. Some of them were, some of them were not, but I do know that I left Teachers College with more questions than when I started. “Will that really work in my classroom?”, “How important is homework?”, “Can we have honors courses for each class in our curriculum?”, “Why not push all of our students to be an honors student?”, and so on.

MD: Colleen, what were some of the challenges you faced returning to the classroom as a student?
CS: There’s no question that those aspects of my experience that resonates with me each day are the struggles I had at various points. I was no longer the teacher running the show; now I was the student. I was suddenly feeling the weight of professors’ demands on my shoulders, especially when I couldn’t understand complex concepts in linear algebra or struggled trying to find excitement in the history of mathematics. I imagine I was experiencing what my students had felt each day. It really opened my eyes to the student-teacher relationship.

I spent several hours working with the president of Sewanee trying to understand the difference between homomorphisms and ring homomorphisms. I realized the importance of communicating struggles with professors and how their understanding tone and patience guided me through a difficult assignment. It really caused me to reflect on my own teaching practices.
MD: Colleen, you are versatile. You teach math, coach hockey and softball, head the Student Diversity Committee, and work in the Residential Program. What is one of the highlights of this school year?

What stands out most for me this year is the Fall Festival that Diversity Committee put on in conjunction with the Residential Life Program. Both groups of students and faculty worked hard to integrate the Lower Campus and Upper Campus into a day full of games, prizes, and activities. It was a day designed for all age groups to participate, as well as a way for our boarding and day student populations to enjoy the campus unrelated to academics or athletics.

Along the same lines, I had the opportunity to work closely with the Community Service Program to bring “Pink Sock Day” to campus in support of the Jane Lloyd Fund. The excitement and enthusiasm that the students and faculty had was overwhelming. Another experience that impacted me was the day after hurricane Sandy, when the boarders walked around campus collecting tree branches and limbs. It only took about forty-five minutes for our group to do it, but it was an huge help to the maintenance crew. It was as simple as faculty and students working together to serve the school. In all honesty, what resonates with me most are the moments on campus when we are an entire community working together in support of the same goal.