Elizabeth Mulcahy, Social Studies Teacher, Western Albemarle High School
What is the most challenging aspect of your job?
The most challenging aspect of my job is having to wear so many different hats. In one day I may talk about Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Abraham Lincoln as an instructor, tutor a student on essay writing, plan a collaborative project with a colleague, supervise fundraising as a faculty sponsor, write a college recommendation, or create a professional presentation on education. This is outside the normal lesson planning, grading, parent communication, and meetings. I find it very rewarding to meet and work with so many people from teenagers to adults, but keeping all the roles organized is a challenge.
What is the most common misconception about your job?
The biggest misconception about my job is that we have summers off. Yes it is a time to get some extra sleep, actually read a book for pleasure, and regain some lost family time from the school year. However, the best educators take the opportunity to be students themselves by taking courses in our content, doing independent research, working with colleagues, and participating in teacher professional development. I have been lucky enough to take students to Europe on World War II tours and travel to China with other teachers furthering my love for education. There is nothing better than seeing a student actually living history.
Where do you see the teaching field in five years?
I see the teaching field going back to more of its roots in passion for the content and discussion face-to-face with students. Technology is amazing for resources. As a history teacher I love having access to one-thousand-year-old documents and doing virtual field trips, but there is no substitution for being in a classroom with peers discussing social studies. I believe there will be less emphasis on standardized testing and more on creative thinking, whether that involves electricity or not.
What outside experience best prepared you to become an educator?
Being a student myself best prepared me to be an educator. I am always thinking about how I understood a concept or completed an assignment in high school or college. I also took advantage of all the opportunities outside the classroom that a school can offer, and it helps me get excited for and understand the different passions of my students. This is why I wanted to teach high school. I may not remember every fact from a course, but I remember the teachers and activities in and outside the classroom, so I am always trying to interact with students by sponsoring clubs, coaching or being a fan at their events.