Student writer Andrea Day contributed to this story.
Sarah McHugh, a student in Colorado State University’s early childhood education licensure program, was recently named to the Colorado Future Educator Honor Roll. Nominated by School of Education faculty members, Cerissa Stevenson, Angela Lewis and Jody Drager, McHugh was selected because of her passion for teaching, dedication, and good performance throughout her time in the program.
Recognizing outstanding future teachers
Each spring, the Colorado Department of Higher Education recognizes outstanding students from Colorado’s educator preparation programs in a ceremony at the state capitol.
“This ceremony recognizes the tremendous impact our future educators will have on their students and the state of Colorado broadly,” said Kim Hunter Reed, CDHE executive director. “Educators are training the next generation of artists, engineers, scientists and health professionals that will power our economy and enliven our communities. They truly make all other professions possible. We want all teachers and administrators—and especially our young educators—to know Coloradans support and appreciate their invaluable work.”
When submitting their nomination to the honor roll, McHugh’s nominators shared their observations of McHugh’s dedication to early childhood education:
“Sarah excels in building individual relationships with children, leading small group literacy and math lessons and leading large group work. She has mastered the cycle of instruction and assessment in the context of developmentally appropriate practice and Colorado academic standards. Throughout her fieldwork experiences, Sarah has made meaningful connections with families and is incredibly personable. She also demonstrates strong leadership skills and regularly contributes her ideas to discussions, which has set her up for success during co-teaching experiences.”
“Sarah is by far one of the most dedicated and talented teacher candidates we’ve had in the early childhood education licensure program,” said Stevenson. “She is incredibly personable; her ability to break even the most complex problems down to the core issues, and then find smart, simple and elegant solutions makes things look easy.”
Shaping better citizens of the world
Educating others has always been a passion for McHugh, who knew she would pursue a career in education. In high school, she regularly babysat and volunteered with organizations that supported children. These experiences helped shape her time at CSU, allowing her to step into the classroom and work with students of her own.
“I’ve always been passionate about working with people, especially with kids,” said McHugh. “Teaching is a powerful way to engage with kids, helping them to be better citizens of the world.”
Last spring, McHugh completed her student teaching at Werner Elementary, spending eight weeks in a kindergarten classroom and eight weeks in a second grade classroom. Forming connections with students and other teachers was crucial for her, she said – so much so that she found herself going back to the school to help in the classroom after her student teaching was completed.
During the summer of 2017, McHugh had the opportunity to study abroad in Zambia for three weeks. There, she taught a classroom of fifth graders, where she learned about making a classroom her own to better impact student learning.
“My experience in Zambia helped me to incorporate a multicultural approach in the classroom,” said McHugh. “It’s something that, as a teacher, you have to be aware of and incorporate into your teaching. It’s made me more mindful – having a global view of education and how important education is worldwide.”
A bright future
The early childhood education licensure program at CSU prepares future educators to teach children from birth to third grade. An interdepartmental program between the Center for Educator Preparation and the Department of Human Development and Family Studies, the program aims to give future teachers hands-on experience in the classroom during their required field experience in a local pre-k center. During their senior year, these students are placed at an elementary school in Poudre School District for student teaching.
McHugh graduated with her bachelor’s degree in May 2018. Taking full advantage of the available options, McHugh passed the elementary teaching licensure exam, which allows her to teach children up to sixth grade. Now, she is a first grade teacher at O’Dea Core Knowledge Elementary School in Fort Collins, focusing on building relationships with her own class of students.
As a new teacher, McHugh said she is passionate about the work she does every day, and she appreciates the continuing support from the center’s faculty.
“I’m really thankful to the faculty in the program for all they do to support the growth and success of new teachers,” she said. “Even after graduation, they have reached out to offer support and guidance.”
McHugh said she hopes to continue learning and growing in her teaching practice, and feels lucky to have graduated from a teacher preparation program that was so supportive and multifaceted.
“I think it’s really important that we continue to encourage people to be teachers, especially when it doesn’t feel like there’s a lot of support,” she said. “I feel really honored and inspired to have been honored with other educators.”
The Center for Educator Preparation is part of the School of Education. The Department of Human Development and Family Studies and the School of Education are part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences.