Ben Spokely came to college knowing exactly where he wanted to go with his career — straight back to high school. When he graduates this spring with a degree in biology, he plans to make his mark in the classroom.
“I want to make a difference in the lives of others and teaching is a job where I can do that every day,” says Spokely, who credits his high school teachers for his own interest in education. “I looked up to them and they were always there when I needed advice or motivation. Part of the reason I want to be a teacher is to have the same effect on others that my teachers had on me.”
In addition to his biology studies, Spokely is part of the DirecTrack program through the College of Education and Human Development. He takes classes that prepare him to teach while getting his undergraduate degree. After graduation, he will take a year of master’s level classes as he works toward acquiring his teaching license.
Teaching classes is only one way Spokely prepared for life as a teacher. He volunteers as a tutor at Columbia Heights High School and served as a teaching assistant for biology classes at the U of M. He also worked as a classroom assistant last summer for TRiO Upward Bound, a program designed to help high school students from low-income families prepare for their future college experience. These opportunities prepared him to work in a real classroom.
“Teaching is a lot harder than you initially imagine it,” says Spokely. “When you try to get 20 or more students with different personalities, learning styles, motivating factors, backgrounds and family lives to all have the same goal for an hour, and try to teach the material so that they can all be successful, it’s challenging but also rewarding.”
Spokely’s experiences in the classroom have exposed him not only to the realities of teaching, but to new and different ways of thinking.
“Before coming here, I tended to believe that the way I look at things is best,” says Spokely. “After teaching at Columbia Heights and with Upward Bound, and serving as a teaching assistant, I came to appreciate that everyone has different learning styles and backgrounds, and that they aren’t always the same as my own.” 3