A Pleasant Student Surprise
When Aurora Hill was young, she found out she was going to be a student in Mrs. Cola’s fifth-grade class. Rumors had long circulated throughout the elementary school that Mrs. Cola was the “mean old lady teacher,” and Aurora was terrified for her first day. To her surprise, “Mrs. Cola wasn’t as scary as they made her seem. I absolutely loved her,” Aurora recalls. “She was actually one of my favorite teachers. She was firm, but she was also very caring. I remember her helping us learn through experience and how to solve problems academically and in the real world. I also remember how she would let us put our heads down to calm our bodies after playing outside at recess and she would read to us. She made the stories come alive. I’ll never forget her.”
What It Takes To Be a Teacher
Now an associate instructor after earning her bachelor’s degree in Child Study from Goodwin, Aurora reminisced about her first job working in a preschool setting. It was there that she befriended one little girl, whose emotional and behavioral struggles carried over into her educational world. None of the teachers could connect with her, none of them could reach her — none of them, except Aurora.
“I refused to give up on this little girl. I dedicated my time to developing a positive relationship with her and learning what I could do to help change her outlook on school and her behavior in a positive way,” Aurora recollected. “That gave me the drive to help more children like her and make preschool enjoyable. My goal with all my students is: when you come to learn, it’s a safe place. I try to be that family for them, especially if they don’t have that person they can trust or feel comfortable with.”
A Safe Place for Little Learners
When Aurora was interning for her bachelor’s degree in Child Study, the significance of school as a consistent, caring, and safe place for students was reinforced once more. During her internship, Aurora honed her craft beyond the classroom. She had the opportunity to go on a home visit to the small city apartment of a student dealing with social, emotional, and academic difficulties. “It really just opened my eyes, not only to what the children face day by day, but what the families face. When they come to school, we don’t see the whole picture, we just see a part of the child… but when you get to visit and meet with the families, you get more of an understanding,” Aurora noted as she outlined the hardships this particular family had to handle.
In the moment, the optimistic Goodwin intern saw this as an opportunity to embody the exemplary efforts of the school she was representing and utilize what she learned from her Child Study courses. Reflecting back, the home visit during her internship also inspired the educator to “think outside the box” and consider “what can I do to help parents as well as the students?” Aurora mentioned that the entirety of the experience taught her to empathize with the child and the family.
“I learned the importance of supporting students so that, when they come to school, they can feel comfortable, safe, happy, and ready to learn. I also learned to support families by building positive, trusting relationships.”
Goodwin University: Great for Moms
As a mother of two, Aurora recognizes the importance of getting an education and setting an example. After her daughter, Laila, was born in Boston, she lived in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for several months before being transferred to Hartford Hospital and ultimately going home. “She’s a fighter,” Aurora indicated. And just as her daughter, now healthy and doing much better, fought for her life years ago, Aurora fought to lead by example by furthering her education and finishing what she started.
When asked how she came to choose Goodwin, Aurora spoke about the ease of transferring credits and focused on the school’s flexibility. “When I first started, I was a single mom. It was hard because I needed to work full-time, but at the same time I needed to go to school. The evening classes were just heaven-sent to me because I earned my degree, all while still working and providing for my daughter. She didn’t really like when I had to leave for class,” Aurora remembered. “But I would explain to her it’s very important that I go to college and learn more, and now she wants to go to college like mommy.”
Aurora was expecting her second child during her last semester at Goodwin. She credited the summer classes as beneficial not only in earning more credits, but in speeding up her graduation timeline as well. Also able to take classes like English, history, and even public speaking online, Aurora appreciated the creativity of the accessible professors and their projects. Initially skeptical of the hybrid classes, she found Blackboard, Goodwin’s online learning system, “easy to use and organized.” Overall, Aurora found that the option between traditional evening classes, and online learning were great for a working mom of two.
A Child Study Degree: Leading the Way to a Creative Career
Aurora earned her bachelor’s degree in Child Study and her learning experience at Goodwin University helped her in landing CREC’s 2019 Paraeducator of the Year Award. As a natural leader, she believes that when teachers build positive relationships with students, families, and the community, the whole child is nurtured for future success. When asked what she specifically enjoys about her job, Aurora emitted an energy that shone: “I get to create new ways of teaching certain subjects to children. I get to learn about the children, learn their likes and dislikes, and figure out different strategies, different materials, or different ways that I can present information.”
Aurora’s Child Study degree reflects her creativity. When a student was struggling in math, she helped the student by creating a color-by-number activity. Knowing that the student found coloring relaxing, Aurora designed the activity so that it included the particular multiplication tables the pupil found challenging. “I turned it into something fun,” she said proudly. “Children learn through play, and that doesn’t stop in preschool or elementary school.”
As a former paraeducator, now an associate instructor for an elementary school, every morning Aurora posts up by the front door to greet students from pre-K through grade five. Aurora is one of the first people that the students see when they get off the bus, and there’s no one better equipped to help young minds start the day. “It’s my favorite part of the entire day,” Aurora explained with a smile, describing the conversations, hugs, fist bumps, and unique handshakes she uses as a special way to say good morning to all children entering the building.
Achieve Your Goals at Goodwin: Get a Mentor!
When asked about advice for incoming students of Goodwin’s Child Study program, the innovative instructor advised: “Find a mentor! Having a mentor, having someone to help you and talk to, even someone just to vent to, is really helpful, especially when going to school and working with children and families. Get someone who can help you achieve your goals.”
Great mentors and great teachers have a lot in common with nature’s own aurora borealis, the natural light display in the Earth’s atmosphere. Auroras illuminate, swirl, and expand across the sky leaving onlookers in awe of all their wonder. Similarly, teachers stretch their skills and compassion like mists of magic in the classroom, capturing the imagination of the curious. Auroras are bright beams that blaze the trail ahead. Likewise, teachers are glowing guides who light the way of a lifetime, encouraging students to forever chase the truly incredible. Great mentors and great teachers have a lot in common with auroras, and all of the above happen to be strikingly similar to Aurora Hill.
Interested in learning more? www.goodwin.edu/childstudy
Photo courtesy of CREC
Goodwin University is a nonprofit institution of higher education and is accredited by the New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE), formerly known as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Goodwin University was founded in 1999, with the goal of serving a diverse student population with career-focused degree programs that lead to strong employment outcomes.