Dylan Erickson-Thoemke is currently an 8th grade geography teacher at Willmar Middle School. As a Saint John’s University student, Dylan was a member of the Joint Events Council, a student-led board responsible for organizing campus-wide events and social programs. He also participated in a semester-long study abroad trip to Greece and Rome. According to Dylan, travelling abroad solidified his love of history and geography.
Why did you decide to study social studies education?
Being a teacher was always a profession that I considered. I am a very social person and having a positive impact on other people is something that is important to me. As for social studies specifically, it was a subject that I always enjoyed. It’s an important area of study that makes important connections between disciplines – this is something that I share with my students. Whether it’s history, geography, economics, or other branches of social studies, they all tie into everyday life.
What did you learn in the social studies education program that has helped you in your post-college endeavors?
In CSB/SJU’s social studies program, we worked frequently on strategies that engage students in alternative ways. I walked into my first year of teaching with plenty of different tools to help students learn. From active classroom routines to new ways to use technology, I felt that I was more prepared because of my education. Learning about different teaching approaches and allowing us to experiment with those approaches helped me feel comfortable with trying new things even beyond my first year.
What advice do you have for a student who is considering social studies education?
This is a subject that will impact students greatly. Being a social studies teacher means equipping students with tools that they will use later in life, and I can say that students (for the most part) understand that. That being said, I think the impact that you can have on young minds is the most rewarding part of this job. Seeing students grow and change even through the course of a year is an amazing thing. My advice is to get to know students well, and do your best to give them the tools they need to succeed – both in and outside of the classroom!
What did you appreciate about your experience in the social studies education program?
In my time in the social studies program, I really appreciated how well I got to know my professors and classmates. Discussions were very productive, and we were able to give honest feedback on the different lessons that we planned. I felt that I had a strong connection with my advisor, and she really pushed me to be the best teacher that I could be. I can definitely say that the strong sense of community in those classrooms and offices helped me become the educator that I am today.
What was a significant challenge you faced as a social studies education student? How did you overcome that challenge?
Social studies is a very broad subject. There is the potential to teach a wide variety of classes - from psychology to economics, and each specific class can require a teacher to prepare in different ways. When I was taking introduction courses, I felt pressured because I imagined myself teaching any one of those classes to a wide range of age groups. Picturing yourself in the ‘real world’ can be scary no matter who you are, but trying to imagine teaching economics really made my stomach turn. I found that through saving college materials and keeping notes, I was able to give myself something to reflect on if I needed to teach that class. I should also say that staying organized helped me in all aspects of being a college student… I wish I would have figured that last one out a little earlier!