Instructional Leadership, emphasis: K-12 School Leadership (MEd)
San Francisco Peaks at sunset.

Josie Teegardin | Class of 2021

Secondary Education History & Social Studies, Spanish

What motivated you to enroll at NAU?

There were many reasons that I made the choice to enroll at NAU. The location is beautiful and perfect for an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys running, hiking, camping, and skiing. It is also close to Lake Powell, Zion, the Grand Canyon, and Phoenix. I grew up in Cave Creek, and I always enjoyed visiting Flagstaff for cooler weather and pine trees. Furthermore, I knew that I wanted to be a teacher, and I had heard of the amazing reputation that the education program at NAU has. Once I had freshman orientation at NAU, I knew I had made the right choice. I felt immediately at home at NAU!

Why and how did you select your final major and minor at NAU?

I knew that I wanted to be an educator after college. I selected my major and minor during freshman orientation with the advisors who helped me set up my class schedule for my first semester.

My history classes in high school, combined with my experiences traveling, reassured me that history was something I wanted to pursue in college along with education. I knew that I wanted to be a part of the movement away from teacher-centered lectures in school and toward project-based learning activities that help students interact more with content. I decided that a history classroom would be perfect to accomplish that goal. I also saw the benefit of learning a second language, and I earned college credits from my AP Spanish classes in high school, so this led me to adding on a minor in Spanish.

teegardin stands in fornt of a class teaching a lesson on Napolean.

In what ways did your NAU coursework prepare you for your career?

NAU prepared me fully for my teaching career after graduation. The way classes were set up and spread out throughout the four years was perfect for me. Each semester built on the previous one in a way that allowed me to continue to deepen my knowledge about education and history. In my history classes, I was able to choose topics that interested me, such as US-Mexico Borderlands, North American Borderlands, Geography, Colonial Latin American History, Race and Ethnicity in the US, Indigenous Histories, and more, all from professors that emphasized student-centered research involving the analysis of primary and secondary sources. Also, I was able to complete 65+ hours of practicum in middle schools and high schools around Flagstaff to get experience as a teacher in a classroom.

During my senior year, I was able to complete my student teaching semester at Mount Elden Middle School alongside mentor teacher Lee Irby, who truly shaped me into the teacher I am today. She supported me as I learned to apply skills from my classes in the middle school classroom such as scaffolding, universal design, culturally responsive teaching, pre, formative, and summative assessment; classroom management, and the art of building meaningful connections with students. Through student teaching, I was able to connect the content I learned from my history classes at NAU and the educational theories and practices I learned in my education classes to create a cohesive classroom experience.

After graduating, I applied and was accepted for a job at MEMS teaching 6th and 7th grade. I was a part of the school’s Alpine program, which focused on place-based learning! I was able to take students on expeditions rock climbing, river rafting, and hiking around Flagstaff and the surrounding areas. During my second year at MEMS, I was awarded Rookie Teacher of the Year for Coconino County. I moved from Flagstaff to Queen Creek after that year and am now working at Chandler High School teaching 9th grade World History.

Without the connections and knowledge I gained from my time at NAU, I would not be the teacher or even the person that I am today.

Did you participate in any experiential learning opportunities, like a study abroad or an internship? If so, how did these contribute to your overall NAU experience?

I was unable to study abroad, even though I had planned to during my first semester of senior year. Unfortunately, COVID was still going on, and we were unable to attend in-person classes or study abroad that year. I was able to work as a TA for an Introduction to Education (EDF 200) class instead, which contributed positively to my NAU experience. I was a student in an EDF 200 class my second semester freshman year, and then I was able to become a TA for the class during my sophomore, junior, and senior years. This helped me cement who I wanted to be as a teacher as I continued learning about current educational pedagogy, practiced teaching in small group settings, and earned money that helped with college expenses. It also helped me to create connections that I was able to use on résumés and for letters of recommendation when applying for jobs.

What campus activities did you participate in while you were a student?

I participated in campus activities such as the Educators Rising club. I attended professional development workshops in the education field, concerts, parents’ weekend, and NAU football, soccer, and basketball games. The games were a blast to attend because the crowd was great; we are a competitive school, and NAU has an app where you can earn prizes by going to games, which makes it more interactive for students. I even won an NAU football jersey!

In my opinion, the best activities to participate in were intramural sports. Intramural coed soccer was very enjoyable because it allowed me to build stronger friendships, exercise, and continue to play soccer in a fun setting. I also attended intramural basketball games to cheer for my friends.

What part of your NAU experience do you value most highly today, and what could NAU have done better to prepare you for the future?

I really value the connections I made during my time at NAU. I created a strong support system of friends and professors who were there to help me on my educational journey. I was able to earn a 4.0 GPA and placement on the Dean’s list. I attended yearly ceremonies for the Award of Academic Achievement and was awarded the Lumberjack Scholars Award and the Dewain and Susan Barber History Teacher Scholarship. I also received the Outstanding Senior Award for the College of Arts and Letters. These accomplishments led me to start my teaching career in social studies at Flagstaff’s Mount Elden Middle School, where I was a part of the school’s program that focused on place-based learning. We took students river rafting, rock climbing, ice skating, and hiking. While at MEMS, I won the Rookie Teacher of the Year for Coconino County. I am now teaching World History at Chandler High School after moving back down to Phoenix. Without the connections and knowledge I gained from my time at NAU, I would not be the teacher or person I am today.