From AC 2nd to… Teaching High School Social Studies (part 1)

It’s been a while since we’ve published an alumni interview in our From AC 2nd… series, but we’re happy to have Emily Osborne (’06) in the spotlight for the series’ return. Emily graduated from Bethel with a double-major in History and Social Studies Education 5-12, and has taught social studies for several years at Mahtomedi High School, primarily World History and AP Psychology. (She also has an interesting summer job that takes her out of the country — more about that in the second question below…) We’ll present Emily’s answers in two parts: more tomorrow Wednesday on her experience as a teacher and how she prepared for that; today we’ll focus on her time in college and how she picked her majors.

1. Did you come to Bethel knowing you wanted to major in History? What drew you to studying the past?

Although I hadn’t settled on a major in history when I first arrived, I definitely had an interest in history before starting my undergraduate career.  I remember paging through registration guides at various colleges, checking out their respective history elective offerings.  I came into Bethel knowing that I wanted to do something related to history or political science, though I didn’t declare my major right away.

A few of my own teachers in high school were very influential to me, contributing both to my interest in history and to my interest in teaching.   History classes were fun, and my teachers found ways of letting us indulge our interests outside of the classroom as well.  One teacher hosted an elective World War II class during our lunch period a few times a week that allowed us to learn just for fun, and another teacher hosted a history book club where we had the opportunity to discuss topics in additional depth.

2. It seems like a significant part of your undergraduate experience was a semester in Oxford. How did you decide to study abroad, and why did you pick Oxford? Can you tell us a bit about your continuing relationship with that university city?

Emily Osborne in London
Emily in London last summer

I came to Bethel with a strong desire to study and live abroad, especially after having the chance to travel internationally with my church and other service groups as a teenager.  Oxford is the sort of place that tended to pop up throughout the fiction and nonfiction that I read, but I first considered it seriously after a couple of Bethel upperclassmen who had been on the program recommended it to me.

I absolutely recommend studying abroad at some point in your college experience, for whatever time your schedule allows.  For me, studying abroad allowed me to take on additional academic challenges and continue to hone my writing skills.  It also allowed me to study topics in additional depth; Dr. Cragg’s Medieval Europe class inspired me to take a six credit course focusing on British history from 1330-1550.  Perhaps above all, studying abroad helps you learn more about yourself and about others.  The experience is one that I wouldn’t trade for anything.

Teaching during the school year and having the summers be more available has allowed me to combine my love for content and the classroom with my passion for study abroad experiences.   After my first year of teaching, I became involved with an organization that runs month-long summer educational study abroad programs for teenagers, including one program located at Oxford University that I currently co-direct.  It’s been an honor to introduce the next generation of students from across the globe to a place that has had such an impact on me personally.

3. At what point did you know you wanted to go into teaching? (Did it come before or after your interest in the History major?)

Sometimes I wish I could say (as some can) that “I always wanted to be a teacher.”  However, my interest in education followed my initial interest in history.  I’m sure it sprung, at least partially, from the age-old question, “What are you going to do with a history major?”   I started my education coursework at the beginning of my sophomore year, even though at the time I wasn’t sure of my career path.  At that point, I still had very strong interests in going directly to graduate school for history, but I decided to investigate my options in education as well.  In hindsight, I’m glad I did.

4. How did your Social Studies Education major fit with your History major? (Is it worth taking the extra classes to complete the second major rather than simply finishing the Social Studies major by itself?)

I never regretted doing the double major.  If anything, I wish I could have added a couple of additional minors on top of the double major!  To be competitive in the social studies education marketplace students should plan on double majoring in one of the social studies disciplines or try to earn a double minor.   That being said, although it’s definitely possible to double major in four years you must plan ahead (especially if you want to study abroad for longer than a J-term).  I graduated after four years with my history degree, but then had to finish my student teaching for my education degree as a post-bac student the next fall.

<<Read the previous entry in the From AC 2nd… series                                  Read part two of our interview with Emily>>

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