Allison Ley teaches 6th grade Minnesota Studies at ROCORI Middle School. This position allows her to help students learn about history, geography, economics, and politics in an integrated manner. Allison’s teaching skills were recently recognized when the district identified her as the 2018 Teacher of the Year!
Why did you decide to study social studies education?
Growing up, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. But the summer before college began, I was a little unsure about the topic I wanted to teach. I actually enrolled as a chemistry teacher originally! What eventually drew me to try social studies education was the variety of topics I could learn and share with others. I loved that I could teach anything from history to psychology to geography and beyond.
What did you learn in the social studies education program that has helped you in your post-college endeavors?
It would be difficult to summarize all the great skills I was taught in the program. But one of the largest influences for me is learning how to teach through multiple perspectives. A lot of students have never thought of an event having so many sides to the same story. When you use this idea in your classroom, your students come alive. They become storytellers for people in the past, and it makes them critically think about each topic we cover. It is amazing to see the progress they make each year in thinking like historians. It is also a skill that will be important for them to use throughout life.
What advice do you have for a student who is considering social studies education?
I would tell them that social studies is a highly rewarding subject to learn and to teach. As a social studies teacher, you can use the subject to help mold students into positive and informed citizens in this world. How cool is that?!
What did you appreciate about your experience in the social studies education program?
I really appreciated how the professors created a positive and personal learning environment for all of us in the program. We always felt comfortable to openly talk about ideas, topics, lessons, and also about ways we could help each other improve. I also feel that we were very well prepared to enter a real classroom. You have field experiences in classrooms every year that teach you many useful skills and strategies before you even student teach. We also were taught how to differentiate for students. This is a huge part of social studies education as all students will approach the topics differently. Because of CSB/SJU, I feel very capable in adjusting curriculum to meet the needs of all my students.
What was a significant challenge you faced as a social studies education student? How did you overcome that challenge?
I think the largest challenge in social studies education is that the content area is so vast. Though I absolutely love the variety in what you are able to teach, it also means that you can’t know every single fact there is about a topic. Once I came to terms with that fact, I was able to really enjoy having students sometimes teach me too. As a social studies educator, you truly will be a lifelong learner. I learn new facts from my students every day!