Education major Michael Aloisi always enjoyed working with children, from the time he started babysitting in middle school.
All through high school, he worked at a church after-school program for children in kindergarten through second grade.
“I’ve known since I was a kid that I wanted to teach,” he says. “I love the little ones; they’re eager to learn. I can teach them a little bit of history and I can also work with them on their phonics skills and building those math skills – everything.”
At first, he thought he might want to teach history. But while taking AP U.S. History in high school, he realized he didn’t enjoy it enough to study it as a specialty. So he opted for a degree in elementary education.
Aloisi was excited when he was accepted to UMass Lowell, which offers an undergraduate degree with dual certification in teaching students with moderate disabilities from preschool through eighth grade.
Now that he’s here, he really appreciates the classroom interactions that he’s had with students in Lowell area schools, starting a couple of months into his first year.
“We get to be in the schools at some point every semester, whether it’s observation or assessments or teaching the lessons that you’ve planned,” he says. “You get that knowledge and that immediate hands-on education. That’s what I really love about the program.”
Aloisi signed up to be an ambassador for the College of Education, to share his enthusiasm and experiences with alumni and prospective students. His junior year, he was elected as president for the student chapter of the Student Education Association of Massachusetts.
He also signed up to volunteer with Jumpstart, a national program that pairs college students, including those at UMass Lowell, with preschool programs for low-income children to boost the children’s literacy and social skills.
Because of his after-school program experience, Aloisi was invited to apply to be a team leader. He got the job and began working 12 hours a week with other UML students to plan activities – and then spend two afternoons a week doing them with the children.
During the COVID-19 shutdown, Aloisi found himself grateful that he’d learned so much in his UML classes about how to use Google Classroom and other online tools to enhance children’s learning.
While sheltering at home in Townsend, Mass., and finishing his own classes online, he also sat in with his mom, a special education paraprofessional in the local schools, as she taught her students virtually – as good a hands-on experience as he could get during the shutdown.
Still, Aloisi missed “his” preschoolers at Jumpstart, his fellow students, in-person classes with his professors and the schoolchildren in Lowell he’d been working with.
“You can Zoom and Facetime and do Google Hangouts as much as you want, but having that face-to-face interaction – you just can’t recreate it. I miss that so much,” he says.