Alumni and Careers

Cully Brownson

Cully Brownson

Class of: 2014

Location: Washington Waldorf School

Major(s): Mathematics

The structure of the courses in the Education Department came to a culmination with the practicum experience, which I feel enabled me to leave Bowdoin as an math educator equipped to meet the challenges faced in 21st century classrooms.

Why math education?

Though I come from a family of educators, I did not realize the passion I had for teaching until I arrived at Bowdoin and enrolled in Contemporary American Education. I had always loved math and science, and figured I would study physics or environmental studies while at Bowdoin. After delving into a study of the major issues that historically and currently affect the educational landscape in America, I was engrossed in the philosophy, politics, successes, and failures of our education system.

Upon continuing my studies in education, I only became more inspired. I began to further reflect on the impact that countless teachers have had on my life, and my only desire was to reciprocate that feeling for future students. What proved perhaps most beneficial to me was how the students and faculty in the Education Department embodied a tremendously holistic view of teaching and learning. We never saw ourselves as distinct groups of just math teachers or just English teachers, but a group of peers with a common passion. This enabled us to focus on addressing the major challenges of education from a unique collective mindset, while contemplating our disciplines from a remarkably integrated viewpoint.

It would be difficult for me to say a single course influenced me more than another, because each one was uniquely special. The understandings I gained from Mindfulness in Education were distinct from those gained in Curriculum, just as the insights from Educational Psychology were distinct from those of Teaching and Learning. Together, the structure of the courses in the Education Department spiraled to a culmination with the practicum experience, which I feel enabled me to leave Bowdoin as an educator equipped to meet the challenges faced in 21st century classrooms.

ALUMNI UPDATE: Cully is teaching high school mathematics at the Washington Waldorf School in Bethesda, Maryland.

Where was your placement?

Greely High School (Cumberland, ME)

Connor Dumont

Connor Dumont

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Mathematics

Minor(s): Education

I was already convinced that I wanted to be a teacher, but I now know that I want to inspire students to love learning and math just like my teachers and professors have done for me.

Why Education?

I’ve dreamed of becoming a teacher since the first grade, so when it came to choosing what college I would attend, a strong education program was a must. Bowdoin has certainly not disappointed.

What’s great about the Bowdoin Education Department is that in order to complete my interdisciplinary major, I had to take four education courses that provided the perfect balance of theory versus practice. Even in Contemporary American Education, the introductory level course, I spent a day in a local school to observe some of the struggles that face our public schools today.  In Educating All Students (Education 2203), I worked one-on-one with a 7th grade English Language Learner. I was able to make observations about how he experienced school, and it allowed me to see first-hand many of the issues and potential solutions that we learned about in class. I quickly came to realize that the most effective teachers are the ones who try to understand where each of their students come from and how each of them learn best. The final two courses were Teaching and Learning (Education 3301) and Curriculum (Education 3302). While in class, we learned a variety of teaching and classroom management techniques, and we had a number of professional development meetings with local experts in the field. As part of these courses, I worked in a 7thgrade math classroom and designed an entire unit on my own – and even got to teach three of my lessons!

Throughout my time at Bowdoin, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have education professors who are both knowledgeable and supportive. They helped me find a summer job that gave me teaching experience, and equally important, for my placements, they found me schools with veteran, experienced teachers who were always excited to share their words of wisdom with me. I was already convinced that I wanted to be a teacher, but I now know that I want to inspire students to love learning and math just like my teachers and professors have done for me.

Following graduation, I plan on substitute teaching in the fall, and I then hope to return to Bowdoin in the spring to participate in the Bowdoin Teacher Scholars program. From there, I want to give back to the state I’ve called home all my life by becoming a middle school or high school math teacher right here in Maine.

Kenneth Cortum ’16

Kenneth Cortum

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Mathematics, Russian

Before I ever came to Bowdoin, I knew that Russian was going to be my major.

About Me

In high school, I studied 20th century Russian history, listened to Russian music, and even taught myself Cyrillic. However, I did not expect to what extent Bowdoin’s Russian department would allow me to explore my varied interests: languages, music, and culture. My professor and advisor summarized my experience in the Russian department well to my colleagues in the last few weeks of my senior year, “His work in the Russian program did not earn him a degree in Russian, but rather a degree in Slavic.” I think what is unique about Bowdoin’s Russian department is that the department allows you to explore your own unique interests pertaining to Russia and other Slavic cultures. Learning Russian is an experience that not only opens the door to travel to and understand past and contemporary Russia, but learning Russian opens the door to every other Slavic language. Because the Russian department allowed me to pursue my interests in other Slavic languages and cultures, I explored my interests in the former Yugoslavia during the summer and I received permission and funding to conduct honors research on the topic of folk music in post-war Poland. I am thankful for all the experiences the department was able to provide, but I am most thankful for their help in preparing me to apply for Fulbright. As a direct result of my experiences in Eastern Europe and the freedom to explore my own interests in the department, I was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Bulgaria. Having returned to the US and having begun my career, my job as a schoolteacher does not utilize my knowledge of Slavic languages and culture every day. However, Bowdoin’s Russian department fostered within me a truly unique liberal arts experience, inspiring me to become a passionate life-long learner.

 My biggest piece of advice to those interested in studying Russian is to stick with it and keep an open mind. Your path in Russian does not put you on any one pre-determined career field. The Russian Department does an excellent job at giving you the chance to explore your interests and thus your career.

Faustino Ajanel

Faustino Ajanel

Class of: 2016

Major(s): Mathematics

Minor(s): Sociology

My teaching goal is to help urban students realize that learning and excelling in mathematics is possible.

Why Education?

I grew up in South Central, Los Angeles and attended public schools throughout my K-12 education. Coming from a school in a low-income community, I felt overwhelmed coming to Bowdoin where there are an abundant amount of resources, small class sizes, and a wide range of areas of study.

The biggest wake-up call I had about my socioeconomic status was during an activity in the class Sociology of Education. Students were asked to form a circle, and told to step out of the circle if a statement applied to you. The professor said, “Step outside if one or both of your parents attended college.” As I looked from left to right, all my peers stepped outside the circle except me. I felt embarrassed and sad that I was the only first generation student in the class (I was also the only person of color in that class too). However, she used this activity to point out the inequalities in education and how it can impact us in moving up or down in the socioeconomic ladder. My discomfort changed to curiosity as I learned more about how inequality played in the U.S. education system.

In my first year of college, I was nervous about taking math classes at Bowdoin. I felt unprepared in taking Calculus, Computer Science or science classes. My advisor recommended me to take a Calculus with Professor Barker. Throughout the semester, I felt engaged in Calculus as Professor Barker took the time and effort in helping me learn the concepts. I realized that having a professor/teacher who is passionate about the material and offers support outside the classroom is crucial for students to succeed in math.

After Bowdoin, I will be working as a math middle school teaching assistant and getting my Massachusetts teaching license at the Boston Teacher Residency program. My teaching goal is to help urban students realize that learning and excelling in mathematics is possible. I hope to obtain a National Board Certification after a few years teaching in Boston. With a background in teaching in urban schools, I plan to enroll in a Doctorate program in Education Leadership, and return to Los Angeles Unified School District either as a school board member or superintendent.