Barry McNamara  |   Published May 22, 2020

A Natural-Born Teacher

Mackenzie Fletcher expects a group of eager students in August when she begins her position as a third-grade teacher at Hedding Grade School in Abingdon, Ill.
  • 2020 graduate Makenzie Fletcher.
    Copyright 2020. All rights reserved.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – One of Sunday’s Monmouth College graduates, Mackenzie Fletcher, expects a group of eager students in August when she begins her position as a third-grade teacher at Hedding Grade School in Abingdon, Ill.

Those eager students will be greeted by a teacher who’s been waiting for the moment her entire life.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” said Fletcher, who graduated cum laude with a degree in elementary education. “Growing up, I would sit my siblings down around a table and pretend that I was the teacher. My dad was on the school board where we lived (Newark, Ill.), and he would bring home old chalkboards” that she used as part of the simulation.

That simulation got very real during Fletcher’s time at Monmouth.

“I remember taking that first ‘Foundations of Education’ class,” she said. “As I was taking it, I thought, ‘Yep, this is what I want to do.’ Then in the upper-level classes as we got out into the schools and worked with kids, I remember that I would kind of stress out the night before, trying to put together the perfect lesson plan. But then the next day, actually doing the lesson with the kids, all that stress got put away and I just really enjoyed what I was doing.”

All along, Fletcher has envisioned working with either second- or third-graders.

“They’re at that age where they still really, really love school,” she said. “They’re more independent than younger students, and they can hold a conversation and joke and express themselves.”

Fletcher has a feeling that this fall’s students, in particular, will love school.

“I’m excited to get that first group of kids back in school after they’ve been held out because of the pandemic,” she said. “I think a lot of kids really miss school, so I’m looking forward to teaching them and just making it a very positive experience for them.”

Fletcher realizes that she won’t be the same teacher on Day One as she will be after several years on the job, and she’s looking forward to the transformation.

“I know it might be a little scary at first to have my own classroom, but I’m excited to experience that,” she said. “I think of myself as a lifelong learner, and I’m looking forward to continuing to learn about my field and how I can grow and adjust for the future.”

Fletcher already has four years of growth under her belt from her time at Monmouth, which she chose for her studies despite its distance from Newark, a village of 1,000 people about a half-hour outside Chicagoland.

“At first, I was thinking I wanted to stay much closer to home, and Monmouth was two-and-a-half hours away,” she said. “But I came down and toured Monmouth, and I really liked it because it had that small-town feel. I remember my tour guide and how he was waving and talking to all the people as they walked by.”

Before long, it was Fletcher making all kinds of connections with the student body through her involvement with the women’s fraternity Pi Beta Phi, as well as the Stockdale Fellows program and the College’s dance team, the Red Hot Scots.

“I have been impressed with Mackenzie’s ability to juggle all of her commitments while also maintaining high academic standards for herself – and making it look easy,” said educational studies professor Michelle Holschuh Simmons, her academic adviser. “I have every confidence that Mackenzie is going to be an excellent elementary teacher. She has the academic knowledge, the instructional skills, the personal qualities and the work ethic to succeed.”

Also a member of Kappa Delta Pi, the international education honor society, Fletcher studied abroad in Northern Ireland the fall semester of her junior year.

“I was at St. Mary’s University College in Belfast, which is known as a teachers college,’” she said. “And then when I got back, I was president of Pi Phi. So that was a very crazy year. But it was really cool to represent both Monmouth College and Pi Phi at our 150th anniversary celebration at the national convention, since Pi Phi was founded at Monmouth (in 1870).”

Through the Stockdale Fellows program, Fletcher traveled to Washington, D.C., and Grafton, Ill., on alternative spring break trips and also had plenty of opportunities to talk about leadership and what makes a good leader. She also appreciated the discussions she had in classes outside her educational studies major.

“My education at Monmouth was very well-rounded,” she said. “I remember taking ‘ILA’ (“Introduction to the Liberal Arts”) that first year, and how everyone was pretty quiet. But then that really changed as we got into the next few years (of the College’s Integrated Studies curriculum), especially ‘Reflections’ and ‘Citizenship.’ We talked about broader topics that didn’t come up in my specific major.”

Now it’s Fletcher who will be in charge of administering a well-rounded education, as her third-graders will be with her throughout the day, learning reading, writing and arithmetic and whatever else Fletcher puts into her lesson plan for the day.

She can hardly wait.

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