Morning Hellos to Major Breakthroughs
Interview with Mandi
K-3 Reading Corps Member
Mandi is a second year MEC K-3 Reading Corps member with a true passion for helping others. She joined MEC in the 2019-2020 school year after working in retail for the first five years following her graduation from Central Michigan University with her Bachelor of Science in Sociology & Youth Studies. In her free time she enjoys crafting and playing with her two Maine Coon cats Jack and Delilah. Mandi is currently looking to go back to school for her Masters in Counseling and aspires to become an Elementary School Counselor.
What initially inspired you to serve with K-3 Reading Corps? I went to school for youth studies knowing that I wanted to do something where I would be able to work with and help kids in some way. This was the first opportunity I had to do something like that after graduating from CMU. I was excited for this opportunity because I get to be in a school everyday and have learned so much about how the school system functions and have gotten to learn, hands on, lots of awesome classroom management and engagement strategies from the teachers and staff at my school. Kids always need positive adults in their lives and I still remember those adults that made an impact on me when I was in elementary school. I wanted to be a part of that for my students. This has been a great stepping stone for going back to school knowing that I will be getting my Masters for something I am positive I want to do and am passionate about.
What does your typical day look like? What is the best part of your day? I start my day by getting my materials prepped and making sure that I am ready to go for the day. I conduct intervention sessions with my students from 9:00a – 3:20p. This year looks a little different in that I have to take time between every student to clean my table and make sure students aren’t sharing supplies. Overall, it hasn’t been as weird or different as I had expected. The students at my school have handled wearing masks, cleaning and the new distancing rules really well. We have been in person the majority of the school year with a six week virtual period during November and December.
The best parts of my day are when I walk into school in the morning and everyone is at their lockers and my students run up to hug me and say hi or hearing them shout, “Hi Miss Mandi!” from their lockers. Sometimes students I don’t even work with do it. My other favorite part of my day is anytime I am working with a student and they either make me laugh (elementary school kids are FUNNY!), or we make a major breakthrough with their reading and watching them sit up a little straighter and feel more confident.
How has your service impacted you? What skills have you gained? Through my service, I have learned and confirmed that I would really love to be an elementary school teacher or counselor. I have had multiple teachers mention it to me as well as my principal. I never originally planned on working with elementary aged kids but they have become my favorite age group! Through Covid, I have learned how to adapt more and I learned how to flip an in-person classroom to a virtual classroom overnight. I think this flexibility and adaptability will be a huge skill that I will be able to use for the rest of my life, as well as all of the classroom management and engagement skills I’ve learned.
Do you have a success story you’d like to share? My most recent one is one of my second grade boys. I had him last year as a first grader and he has always been a low scoring reader. This school year we have been consistently in the 30s-40s words correct on one of our interventions and last week during Winter Benchmarking he surprised all of us when he scored 88 words read correct in a minute! We ran to tell his teacher and his mom at the end of the day. He went from one of my lowest second graders to one of my highest second graders in a matter of a week and he is so proud of himself. I love seeing his major confidence boost and it just goes to show what I always tell my students. “Sometimes it just takes a while, and then one day it will all ‘click’ and you’ll take off with your reading!”
How do you plan to use the skills you’ve gained in the future? I am currently looking at schools to go back to school to get my teaching certification through Teachers of Tomorrow, and then to get my MA in Counseling at Wake Forest University.
Is there anything else you want to share about your service experience? I think that one of the biggest surprises I’ve had is how much my students have impacted me, how much joy and laughter they have brought to my life. I never expected to have a 5-8 year old make me laugh so hard I cry but they have. It didn’t take long last school year before I started calling my students “my kids.” I really do love and care for my students. I even still call my former students my students or my kids by accident. Some of them even still write me letters and stop by to visit me if their parent/guardian works for the school.