Fellowship offers junior real-world classroom experience

Renina Wynn ’24 with Professor of Education Scott Gelber during a reflection session in Brookline, Mass.

Renina Wynn ’24 assists in Boston high school during winter break

Aspiring teacher Renina Wynn ’24 spent two weeks during winter break observing, assisting and teaching in a high school as the recipient of a Boston Urban Teaching Fellowship.

She secured funding for the winternship through the Nancy Lyon Porter ’43 Community Service Fellowship, which is coordinated through Wheaton’s Filene Center for Academic Advising and Career Services.

Wynn—a double major in history and secondary education—was placed in a 10th grade English class at John D. O’Bryant School for Math and Science, an honors high school in Roxbury, Mass., a Boston neighborhood. She observed the teacher and students; helped reorganize the school’s book room; and assisted students with their writing.

Her mentor teacher, Cole Moran, provided guidance and support throughout the fellowship, along with Wheaton Professor of Education Scott Gelber, who coordinated the program and led learning sessions that complemented the hands-on experience.

“My mentor teacher really took me under his wing during my time at O’Bryant. I not only got to see how he interacted with students and taught, but also what he did behind the scenes; such as grading and lesson planning. He also challenged me to lead a short discussion at the start of class and help students with paper revisions,” she said.

The most fulfilling part of the experience for Wynn was witnessing how the teachers interacted with their students in a positive, impactful way.

Wynn helped reorganize the textbook room during her winternship.

“Most students were engaged and excited to learn from Moran without him being strict toward students. I think that’s really important and something I hope to take with me into my career. Of course, academics are important, but students are human and have a lot to deal with outside of school. I learned from Moran that teachers can be both patient and still have high expectations for their students,” Wynn said.

The fellowship builds on Wynn’s other off-campus experience as a writing intern at the Boston International Newcomers Academy, a public school that embraces new immigrant adolescent English language learners and their families. Her Wheaton courses “Teaching English Language Learners,” “Education and Equality in the U.S.” and “Adolescent Development” also supplied her with the knowledge to succeed, she said.

Throughout the fellowship, Professor Gelber facilitated meetings with Wynn and students from other local universities and colleges participating in the program. He said her experiences at the John D. O’Bryant School and the Boston International Newcomers Academy broadened her perspective of the education field.

“During our reflection sessions, Renina enriched the conversation by comparing and contrasting those settings. This range of experience will improve Renina’s effectiveness as a teacher while also strengthening her job applications when that time comes,” he said.

Gelber added that the fellowship experience has helped launch the careers of several Wheaton students, including Rebecca Livington ’20, who is teaching second grade at The Haley Pilot School in Boston, and Rasheeda Abdul-Musawwir ’13, who serves as director of talent recruitment for Cambridge Public Schools.

For Wynn, who plans to obtain her teaching license, the winter fellowship also has exposed her to post-graduate opportunities. For example, she met many people, including her mentor, who graduated from the Boston Teaching Residency—a one-year program that combines graduate school with experience in Boston Public Schools.

“This was extremely helpful in thinking about my academic and long-term goals because as someone in education, classes/school is great, but nothing compares to the actual experience of being in an everyday classroom. This program seems to do a great job of both, and I definitely see myself applying. I would have never known about the Boston Teaching Residency had I not done this winternship,” Wynn said.