Heather Bagdoian ’18, MAT ’19 is a history teacher in the Worcester Public Schools. We had the pleasure of sitting down with her to learn more about her experiences at Clark and now as a high school teacher during a global pandemic. As schools make the difficult decision to educate students online, in person, or in a hybrid model, Bagdoian emphasizes focusing on the relationships with her students and their overall well-being.
When did you graduate and what did you do at Clark?
At Clark, I double majored in history and French. I graduated with my bachelor’s in 2018, and stayed for one more year to do the Master of Arts in Teaching program. Studying at Clark was a great way for me to get involved in the Worcester community and I worked part time with a tutoring group called AVID at a local middle school.
As a transfer student, how was your transition to Clark?
It honestly was really good. Luckily for me, Clark is a very small school. I loved being in smaller classes, and it helped me to be able to create relationships with my professors. I made a lot of great friends easily because everyone became a familiar face around campus.
Where are you now? What have you been up to?
I’m actually living in Worcester now! I just moved back here this summer. I’m a high school history teacher for the Worcester Public Schools.
How has the pandemic affected your work as a teacher?
As you can imagine, it’s been a struggle. It was a huge learning curve in the spring for us to switch to teaching to online with practically no notice. Our biggest concerns were for students’ safety and how they would process this switch. It has been scary this summer with so many teachers not knowing what this school year is going to look like and if we would be returning in person, especially as case numbers continue to rise in the country.
What are some ways you are teaching differently?
Honestly, my biggest focus this year is on my relationships with students and their well-being. I want to make this school year as fun and engaging as I possibly can, because no one likes sitting at a computer for hours at a time. This is going to have a huge impact on our students, and I want them to know they are supported and cared for. So if that means fewer tests and more games, that works for me! Before, we didn’t really use much technology in the classroom, so this is a new opportunity to discover fun websites, games, and videos — different ways to show the kids that history can be fun and relevant to their lives.
What is your school’s plan for the fall and how are you preparing?
I’m glad that Worcester decided to go online to start the school year. Although I want to be in person with the kids (as every teacher does), it is a much safer option for students and teachers that we stay home. We are doing a block schedule so we won’t see the kids as often as in person, but it will allow them to have some flexibility with their schedules. I think that’s good for them because it’s hard to sit at a screen for long periods of time. I’ve been spending my summer looking into fun digital resources and ways to teach material so I’m not just lecturing to students. Depending on the pandemic, we will hopefully be able to return in person at some point this school year.
Do you have any ‘adulting’ tips or advice you can share with your fellow Clarkies?
Make connections while you can! Clark has a huge network of possibilities and people. Take the time to explore anything and everything you’re interested in. I originally wanted to be a psychology major, but because I was able to observe classrooms in local schools and work with kids through tutoring, I quickly realized that my real passion was with history and education.