Graduate Spotlight: Lauren Schneider | Renton, WA

After graduating from the University of Washington with a degree in psychology, I knew I wanted to work with children because that is where I find my greatest joy and inspiration. I considered various graduate programs to prepare me for work in the mental health field as a therapist or psychologist, but I finally chose teaching because, ultimately, it is the teacher who spends the most time with each child and is thus in the best position to guide and advocate.

The MAT@USC allowed me to attend a world-class, nationally ranked program and still live at home in Seattle. I knew it would be challenging, and it was — but the MAT@USC has more than prepared me to achieve my goal of working with children in high-needs situations. While student teaching, there were certain low-income students who carried a heavy burden on their shoulders each day to school. I was able to witness firsthand the positive outcomes that came from my devotion to them and their wellbeing. Working with these children confirmed that this field is where I am needed and where I want to be.

Working in a very diverse classroom showed me how important it is to consider the whole child in regards to his/her academic experience. Students cannot be expected to succeed at school when they are hungry, neglected or under significant stress at home. Considering each child’s social and emotional needs, such as whether or not he/she has someone to eat lunch with or any anxiety about school in general, is also important. By being sensitive to the whole child, I can create a truly successful classroom environment. The best way I can foster a life-long love of learning within my students is to teach and show them that school is where they belong and success is where they are destined.

The MAT@USC changed everything I thought I knew about education. The problems plaguing America’s classrooms are bigger and more complex than I ever imagined. However, I am optimistically ready to meet the challenges that lie ahead in my teaching career. This optimism can be credited to the progressive program developed by USC, which has given me the tools and confidence necessary to jump out of my comfort zone and embrace the rigor of serving in a high-needs urban population.