Q&A with Sophia Barro ’22 on her student teaching experience
Sophia Barro ’22 is a senior education major and religion minor at PLU. She recently completed full-time student teaching at Lakeview Hope Academy. We spoke with Barro about her experiences at PLU and as a student teacher, and about the values she hopes to inspire in her future students.
How did you know you wanted to be a teacher?
Teaching has always been a big part of my life. I am one of five kids. My desire to teach my little cousins and siblings while growing up signaled to me that teaching might be a good path. Also, my dad passed away when I was in third grade, and my teachers really stepped up to support me. I remember that so fondly. Trauma can really affect students, and I want to be able to show the same care and concern to my students as my teachers showed for me.
What led you to PLU?
My oldest sister attended PLU for a couple of years, so I was familiar with PLU. I did not want to stay in Tacoma when I was first looking for a college, as I am a local student. My high school counselor encouraged me to consider PLU anyway. I told my mom I would attend Lute Overnight but would not stay the night. I remember that it was a beautiful day. I met my Lute Overnight group and we all just got along so well that I decided I wanted to stay for the rest of the event. I was having so much fun that I drove home, grabbed an overnight bag, and came back. I like to think I am very intuitive, and something told me I needed to stay that night and connect with PLU students and explore the campus more. I committed to PLU soon after that experience, and I am really grateful for that. I still remember it like it was yesterday. In my second year as a PLU student, I got to be a New Student Orientation Guide. By that time, I had so much passion for PLU, and it was amazing to share that with new students and be part of their PLU journey. It is one of my fondest memories from my time here.
Why did you choose a reading endorsement for your degree?
Everyone who studies education at PLU chooses an endorsement, either special education or reading. Growing up, I was a bookworm. I would sneak books to read late at night. That is why I chose the reading endorsement. I didn’t know what teaching literacy would encompass at all. I have been learning the stages of reading and language acquisition, learning to teach phonics, and learning to inspire interest in reading in kids. That’s part of the reason I really enjoyed working with second graders during my student teaching.
How was your student teaching experience?
I recently completed my student teaching at Lakeview Hope Academy in the Clover Park School District. It was very special. Clover Park is a very diverse district. I worked with second graders. I had a lot to learn as I changed from an observer to a full-time student teacher. I love reading and writing, and it was so fun to connect with the students through those subjects and through practices that elevated and uplifted the assets that each student brought to the table. Half of my students were multilingual learners (MLL). I learned strategies that promote meaning-making and a multi-modal approach to working with MLL students. These strategies utilize visual thinking, and what the students already know and wonder about to facilitate meaningful conversations. One of my favorite things that I did with my students was introduce new “words of the week.” My students had various home languages. I would introduce a new word in one of these languages during carpet time and ask them to try using it throughout the week. It became a norm in the classroom to embrace these languages, and created a positive, identity-affirming environment for everyone to grow and learn.
How has your faith influenced you as you pursue your teaching career?
I am Catholic, and I have always been in religiously affiliated schools. I attended Catholic school from kindergarten through 12th grade, and I have had the privilege and the blessing to be able to observe teaching in the local Catholic schools. I have always said that I want my students to be critical thinkers and social justice leaders. I think it is really important to have diversity responsive literature in classrooms and I always tie in social justice components including identity, justice, diversity, and action in my teaching. I always said that no matter which school I end up working at, I would uphold that same philosophy. I am happy to have finally chosen where I will begin teaching after graduation. I will be a third-grade teacher at St. Patrick Catholic School in Tacoma. I think it is so awesome that I will be able to teach those values in a Catholic school and tie it all back to faith. Being Catholic and attending religious schools is a big part of who I am, and bringing faith into my teaching has been something I have been longing to do. I am so excited to experience all that intersectionality, and to use what I have learned in my religion minor as well.