For many college students, one of the trickiest parts of their post-secondary education is choosing a fitting major. According to Bay College sophomore and Elementary Education major Kaitlyn Millin, her experiences at Bay have been very helpful in this regard.
Before she started her college education, Kaitlyn was homeschooled. When she graduated from high school, she was living in Trenary, MI. “I didn’t really know what I wanted to do, and so I decided to go to Bay since it was a smaller school and I could get my general education classes out of the way,” she said.
Bay’s location was another major factor in her decision. “I also chose Bay because it’s close to home, and I was only 17 and not ready to move away from home,” Kaitlyn said.
Kaitlyn began taking classes at Bay during the winter 2019 semester; at that time, she was dual-enrolled while working towards finishing her high school education. She graduated from high school that spring, and started as a full-time Bay student shortly afterwards.
Originally, Kaitlyn was set to pursue a degree in computers at Bay. “About three weeks before the semester, I decided that was not what I wanted to do,” she said. She spoke with an advisor, who helped her explore her options by signing her up for some classes in education and some classes in computer programming. Taking these classes helped her select the career pathway that was right for her.
“In the winter of 2020, right before the college shut down in person classes for the pandemic, I was taking educational psychology and I got to spend one day in a classroom doing field work for that class. After that, I just knew that’s what I wanted to do,” Kaitlyn said.
During the fall 2020 semester, Kaitlyn continued her field work in another classroom – that of Martha Saberniak, a first grade teacher at Superior Central School District in Eben Junction, MI. Because of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Kaitlyn was hesitant about resuming this part of her education, but these anxieties quickly fell to the wayside. “Once I got to the classroom, the experience that I had was very similar to the one experience I had from the year before,” she said.
Martha said Kaitlyn started off as an observer in her class. Before long, though, she began helping students during their independent work time and at other points of the day. “She worked really well building relationships with students,” Martha said, noting she considers this to be a crucial aspect of teaching. Occasionally, Kaitlyn led day-to-day activities such as the classroom’s “morning meetings.” She also planned a math lesson for the class.
Having another adult figure in the classroom made it easier for Martha and her students to tackle the difficulties of attending class during the pandemic. “There’s a lot of extra stress for the students this year, with all of the changes and everything that’s been happening in the world,” Martha said.
Kaitlyn participated in Bay’s outreach events for local fifth-graders and eighth-graders during her first semester at the college, as well. She worked with other students in her class to create a mini-lesson on friendship. During their lesson, youngsters made friendship bracelets and learned why being a good friend is important.
Along with her field work and participation in college events, Kaitlyn has been involved with Bay’s chapter of Aspiring Educators of Michigan – currently, she serves as its communications and media coordinator. The chapter was founded during the fall 2019 semester. At first, Kaitlyn said the chapter was “slow-moving,” due in large part to the pandemic. Things have picked up considerably for the group since then. “Now, we’re … getting to do some virtual things and helping our community and the kids in our community before we get to be teachers,” she said.
Kaitlyn also noted she has appreciated the networking element of the group. “As a future educator, it is really awesome to get a chance to get to know more future teachers at an early stage in my career … and prepare to be able to work with them in the future,”
Kaitlyn expects to graduate from Bay with her associate degree in April 2021. After spending the summer as a counselor at Lake Lundgren Bible Camp, she plans to transfer to Northern Michigan University to earn her bachelor’s degree with minors in math and reading.
Once her college education is finished, Kaitlyn plans to look for a position in the education field. “I would like to get a job in the area – I love the U.P., and I’d love to stay up here – but I’m willing to go where my career takes me,” she said.
Kaitlyn also hopes to have a family and – though she said it may sound “counterintuitive” – to homeschool her children eventually. “I think that’s really important to me,” she said.
Martha said she is excited to see where Kaitlyn’s career takes her. “She’s going to be an amazing teacher. She did a great job in the classroom,” Martha said.