Wheaton College Norton, Massachusetts

Shannon Witter

On-campus activities: I’m a Preceptor, and a member of Phi Beta Kappa, Psi Chi, and I worked on The Wheaton Wire for four years.

Learning to teach: Upon entering college, I planned on becoming an English teacher. However, after actually being in a classroom setting, I found myself focusing on students who were struggling academically and I wondered exactly why this was happening. I think that it is often easy for teachers to recognize and praise the “gifted” students, but I feel that, in doing so, children who experience difficulty understanding material are often wrongfully blamed for laziness of lack of ability. Having somebody recognize this difficulty and commit to finding a child’s true capabilities could mean all the difference in the future of a student.

Aha! I feel that psychology is relevant to absolutely every human encounter in the entire world. Psychology and education are inextricably linked. By having an understanding of developmental psychology, I feel that an educator is better able to be aware of potential issues that could affect a child’s academic performance and ultimate well-being. In her education courses, Professor Vicki Bartolini talks a lot about “aha!” moments, those wonderful moments when a child suddenly understands a concept with which he or she has been struggling. As someone who works with children, there is nothing more rewarding than watching a child experience such a moment when he or she realizes that they can do something once believed to be impossible.

In the classroom: Throughout my time at Wheaton, I have volunteered at nearly one dozen schools and have worked with students ranging from second grade “Reading Buddies” at Edmund Hatch Bennett Elementary School in Taunton, Mass., to eighth graders with learning differences at The Wolf School in East Providence, R.I. Since my freshman year, I have worked at the on-campus Elisabeth Amen Nursery School. Currently, I am  working in a classroom with five-year-olds. They are hilarious. One student, upon learning my age, asked me “Were you born in the ‘oldie olden’ days…when people lived in stick houses?”

Changing course: When I began exploring the field of speech language pathology further, something inside my mind clicked. The discipline just felt right for me—a perfect mingling of psychology, English and education sprinkled with aspects of public policy, philosophy, and sociology. What I love the most about Wheaton is how students are not only allowed the freedom to create their own experiences, but that they are encouraged to do so! I love the wiggle room that a liberal arts curriculum allows.

A therapeutic experience: Over the summer, I interned with Michael Grupp, a speech language pathologist at The Groden Center in Providence, R.I. Groden is a school for students ranging in age from eight to twenty-two years old with special needs, in particular autism spectrum disorder. I provided one-on-one speech therapy to students, recorded data on individual progress, assisted with classroom routines, organized computerized files, and created Picture Exchange Communication System materials. I even learned how to program augmentative communication technological devices for use with students who have limited verbal communication capacities.

Stepping forward: In the fall, I am continuing on to graduate school at the University of Rhode Island to receive my master’s degree and certificate of clinical competence in speech language pathology. As part of my award package, I was offered a graduate assistantship to work closely with a professor on research and teaching. Now that the pieces have fallen into place, I am ready and excited to take the next step toward meeting my career goals.

—Elizabeth Meyer ’14