SPOTLIGHT ON NEW TEACHERS: MEGAN HELGESON
“No matter what accomplishments you achieve, somebody helped you.” ― Althea Gibson
Shelly McAlister, Marlington Local Schools
The OFLA Beginning Teacher Committee is working hard to connect with new teachers and to support them to become excellent, innovative, resourceful, and long lasting world language teachers. Our goal is to provide a network of resources, strategies and tools for new teachers. We want new teachers to know that they are not alone, and that OFLA is here to help them. To this end, we will be interviewing new teachers throughout the year and highlighting them in The Cardinal. Megan Helgeson is a French teacher at Dempsey Middle School in Delaware, Ohio who recently participated in one of our resource swap meets. This is her fourth year teaching French full time.
What is your favorite thing about being a teacher?
My favorite thing about being a teacher is getting kids excited about French and seeing the “ah ha” moment on their faces.
What made you want to teach?
I actually did not want to be a teacher growing up. My mom was a math teacher, and I told her that I wanted to “do” what I was interested in, not teach about it. After college, I spent a year in France and taught English to elementary school students through the Teaching Assistant Program in France, but I still did not plan on becoming a teacher. It was not until my master’s program at Ohio University where I taught an introductory French course to college students that I discovered I loved teaching. I realized that teaching does allow me to “do” what I love.
Who has had the biggest impact on your teaching and why?
This is a difficult question because many people have influenced me at different points of my teaching journey. It was Dr. Lois Vines from Ohio University who encouraged me to do the French masters program there, which improved my French enormously and essentially put me on the path to becoming a teacher. It was Lisa Shepard, my student teaching mentor, who influenced how I go about finding authentic resources and how I grade and give feedback. It is Trista Todt, the Spanish teacher at my middle school, who bounces ideas back and forth with me daily about language-learning activities and classroom management.
What is one thing you learned from another teacher that helped you this year?
This year, I have been dabbling with using stories in my lessons more. I have used stories in the past, but this year I am actually basing my lessons around stories rather than having stories be one aspect of a lesson. My colleague Trista Todt has inspired me and helped me with this transition.
What is a project or lesson in your classroom that you are really proud of?
This is not really a project or a lesson, but what I am the proudest of in my classes is how I use immersion to teach. I am proud of it because I think that a lot of teachers do not think it is possible to use immersion and still have the input to be comprehensible to students, but it is possible! I have had both students and parents compliment me about how much the students understand and are able to say in French by the end of the year. I would not change that aspect of my classroom for anything.
What advice do you have for new teachers?
My advice for new teachers is to continue to change and improve upon your lessons each year; do not get stuck in a rut using the same materials, lessons, assessments, etc. each year. It is incredible—after modifying lessons that I felt proud of my first year—how those lessons have really become stronger year after year.
The OFLA Beginning Teacher Committee has created a Facebook Group, OFLA Beginning Teachers, to share articles, to answer questions and to brainstorm ideas. If you know of any new world language teachers, please encourage them to join. Our committee is also organizing resource swap meets throughout the state. They will be advertised via the Facebook page and OFLA Google Group.