Many teachers will come to experience distracting eruptions in their classrooms—from rowdy kids to messy art projects—but not every teacher’s experience will include an actual active volcano, like Winona State University alumna Aemilii Melby’s experience this summer in Costa Rica while working for Teachers Abroad.
Melby, originally from Duluth, Minn., was fulfilling student teaching requirements at Lighthouse International School when the volcano Turrialba began spewing ash.
Parents began pulling their students from class, the nurse came in to distribute masks to protect lungs from the ash in the air, and the students were not allowed to go outside for recess.
But instead of letting the volcano ruin her lessons for the day, Melby kept her cool continued teaching, including a science unit on volcanoes in Costa Rica, weaving in her students’ experiences.
“The students find comfort in a routine. I kept my expectations high, with a fair share of patience,” Melby said.
On top of all the distractions with the volcano, Melby’s Educators Abroad Supervisor, Barb Truitt-Peterson, was observing her classroom instruction that day.
“I was extremely impressed with Aemilii and her students,” Truitt-Peterson said. “That was when I knew she was a great teacher. She didn’t even need to yell or remind them that they had work to do.”
It was a true testament to Melby’s ability to handle life’s “little volcanoes,” Truitt-Peterson said, especially in the classroom.
“Ms. Melby definitely learned that no one day in teaching is ever the same as another day,” Truitt-Peterson said. “But, I think it re-emphasized that a teacher more than anything must be flexible and that even interruptions can make for great teaching moments.”
And if the volcanoes she has to handle in her future career are anything like the actual volcano she battled, at least she knows she will always be on her toes.
“Be patient. We never know what distraction is coming next, but there will be something,” Melby said. “Like a friend once told me, ‘teaching is like walking a million dogs all at once.’ But, I tell you, you won’t be bored!”
Melby graduated from WSU in spring 2016 with a double major in elementary education and Spanish education. She still resides in Costa Rica, where she continues to teach as an assistant in a first grade classroom.
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