Southeast Missouri State University alumna Kristina Halpin of O’Fallon, Ill., recently returned from Edinburgh, Scotland, where she student taught secondary mathematics at the Trinity Academy.
“I was really blessed to student teach in a country as wonderful as Scotland. As a teacher, it shows how adaptable I am to new situations and willing to try something new. I also think that this opportunity has made me more independent and worldly,” she says.
In her free time in Scotland, Halpin toured the area.
“I absolutely love the United Kingdom,” she says. “Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is fantastic. In London, I really love the free museums (British, natural history and science) and the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London – The Making of Harry Potter.”
Halpin also visited several churches during her time overseas, including Westminster Abbey and St. Giles’ Cathedral, and Buckingham Palace, where she saw the changing of the guards and walked The Royal Mile. She also visited Giant’s Causeway and various castles, including Dunlace Castle, Linlithgow Castle where Mary, Queen of Scots was born, and several other hotspots throughout the area.
Loch Ness in particular was “absolutely beautiful. Unfortunately I did not spot Nessie,” Halpin jokes.
While teaching at the Trinity Academy, “I saw a lot of my favorite teaching moments: that light bulb that goes off, and the students say, ‘Oh, I get it.’ That always makes me feel good,” she says.
Teaching mathematics proved to be different in Scotland than in America, according to Halpin.
“In America, classes are divided by subject in math (e.g. algebra, geometry, trigonometry), but in Scotland, ‘maths’ is divided by difficulty,” she explains, clarifying that “maths” is what they call math in Scotland.
Another difference in the way mathematics is taught is that teachers do not use the technology used in American schools – Halpin only had access to white boards while she was there. Ironically, students were allowed to use personal technology in class, including their phones and iPods.
Even with that possible distraction, Halpin says she connected well with the students and teachers there.
“I loved working with the kids, and the teenagers in particular were fun to be around,” she says. “I’m also going to miss the staff. They are really wonderful people. Everyone I’ve met in the United Kingdom for that matter was really nice.”
Halpin says even though it was difficult being away from her family, friends and boyfriend for so long, she does not regret her choice to student teach in Scotland.
“This has been an absolutely wonderful experience, and I really think it helped me grow as a teacher and as a person,” she says. “I never thought I would go to Scotland, let alone student teach there.”
Halpin created a blog to chronicle her overseas adventures, which can be viewed at bagpipescastlesandkiltsohmy.blogspot.co.uk/.
Student teaching in Scotland was not the first experiential learning opportunity Halpin took advantage of since starting at Southeast. She also student taught at Waterloo High School in Waterloo, Ill., and Jackson Senior High in Jackson, Mo., and she also worked in the Mathematics Learning Center in Johnson Hall on campus.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to use my math education abilities and allowed me to refresh my skills in various courses,” she says.
Halpin was also involved in Gamma Sigma Sigma on campus.
“Gamma Sigma Sigma gave me leadership opportunities, loads of friends and a greater sense of community involvement. At Southeast, most of my favorite moments were with Gamma Sigma Sigma,” she says. “They named me Best Active in fall 2011, and that was one of my proudest moments. I also received a few awards for the number of service hours I completed. Other favorite moments were with the close group of friends I made in my mathematics education major.”
At Southeast, Halpin also participated in Dance Marathon, Kappa Delta Pi, Omicron Delta Kappa, the Jane Stephens Honors Program, Student Association of Math Educators and Student Missouri State Teachers Association. She graduated cum laude through the Jane Stephens Honors Program with participation in Omicron Delta Kappa and Phi Eta Sigma.
All of these experiences will help her stand out in her field; Halpin is currently looking for a teaching position in the St. Louis area. In the meantime, Halpin says she gets the greatest pleasure out of doing service projects.
“Relay for Life is my favorite,” she says.
Also in her spare time, she said she likes to go out to eat and will especially miss the Mexican restaurants in Cape Girardeau now that she is back in her hometown. She also enjoys crocheting.
“A friend taught me freshman year, and I became a bit obsessed with it for awhile. It’s a relaxing hobby, and it feels good to make something out of nothing,” she says.
Halpin wants future Southeast students to know they are no different from her, and she encourages them to get involved.
“I know that’s what everyone says, but it’s true,” she says. “That’s how you get the most out of your Southeast experience. There are loads of different options out there, so there will be something for you. All you have to do is work hard and dream big. The rest will just fall into place.”