BA in Anthropology, 1987; BA in English, 1987; Teaching Credential, 1988
School of Education
September 1, 2015
“I am so grateful for the foundation my education at UCI provided.”
UC Irvine inspired me go to the opposite side of the world…and back. I was an Anthropology major (and a KUCI DJ!) and became passionate about British literature after taking a class about Geoffrey Chaucer for fun. So in 1987 I graduated with degrees in both Anthropology and English. At the time I was living in the quaint and funky on-campus student trailer park, and paying only $75.00 a month. That low rent let me continue with my education and earn my teaching credential a year later. During that last year, one of my professors invited a Peace Corps volunteer to speak to the class, and that was it! I signed up, and within six months I was living inside a different culture instead of just studying books from the safety of south Orange County!
I traveled to Nepal and began learning their languages, culture, and teaching practices. I lived without electricity or plumbing in a fairly remote Himalayan village, taught English, and trained teachers. For the first two months I taught outdoors since the school had been destroyed by a major earthquake a few months before I arrived, and reconstruction had to wait until the monsoons were over. Sadly, this same situation repeated itself with far greater devastation this last spring. Again, the villagers are living in shelters, waiting for the monsoon storms to pass so they can begin to rebuild their homes and school.
I became very close with my Nepali-Gurung family; in fact, they hosted my wedding to my long-time boyfriend and fellow Anteater, Charlie Churchill. Five hundred Nepali guests, several decapitated goats… but that’s another story! I am still close to my Nepali family, and owe that entire portion of my life to one of my UCI professors.
Several moves and decades later, I am so grateful for the foundation my education at UCI provided. I am a 7th grade World History teacher at Rancho Santa Margarita Intermediate School, where my educational background and Himalayan experiences help me bring the Middle Ages to life for my students:
How did they live without toilet paper?
Well, let me tell you…
We do have fun discussions that I hope will inspire many students to become excited about history. My English background has been invaluable as we transition to the rigors of higher-level analytical thinking and writing through the Common Core standards. In 2007 I was honored to be selected as Teacher of the Year by my colleagues, who are a daily inspiration to me.
I love teaching in the classroom, but also enjoy the opportunities to mentor new teachers. I have been a BTSA support provider to new teachers for almost 10 years, and a mentor teacher for student teachers as well. Most recently I was a mentor for a young man who has his MA in Medieval History and whose love for the subject started 13 years before as a student in my classroom! This, I think, is the highest honor a teacher can ever receive: having a student follow in one’s footsteps. Often we don’t know whom we have impacted; I was fortunate to be able to share in my former student’s growth into a professional educator.
I appreciate the opportunities UCI continues to offer teachers in the area, and love attending the afternoon World History Project sessions. Some of my best lessons have come out of those workshops, and some of the greatest discussions about the many ways to approach the teaching of history.
This summer I attended a two-day collaboration between teachers and administrators and UCI educators and spent hours delving into issues of continuing education for educators at every level of experience.
UCI continues to be a community I rely on and am grateful for, not just for myself, but for my sons who have attended GSA summer programs, and my fellow teachers who bring their expertise to my school. I think of UCI as a hub of a wheel with many spokes radiating out into the larger world, connecting us with visions of dynamic education and life-long learning.