Nicholas Kerrigan always looked up to his dad, who teaches at a school for students with cognitive challenges.
But it wasn’t until Kerrigan had his own experience working at a YMCA summer camp with third graders, some of whom had learning disabilities, that he figured out what he wanted to do with his life.
“Camp enlightened me,” says Kerrigan. “Not only did I get to know these same kids for two years, they got to know me, and I've been able to build a rapport with all of the campers in my group.”
Kerrigan was so inspired that he decided to switch his major from business to education, joining the first class in the university’s new Bachelor of Arts in Education program. He is one of 18 students in the program, which prepares graduates to earn dual certification to teach children in grades one to six and children with moderate disabilities in grades pre-K to eight in Massachusetts.
“I realized that I wanted to be able to work with children and help them learn, and lead them through a journey to success,” he says. “Working with children and seeing them succeed is what would make me proud of my job.”
The undergraduate education program gives students experience in the classroom beginning in their first year.
Before teaching fourth graders in the Murkland Elementary School in Lowell, Kerrigan gained initial experience teaching a lesson to five student avatars in a virtual reality classroom developed by Mursion®.
“The avatars absolutely helped me feel more comfortable in a class setting,” he says. “We taught with the avatars two weeks before teaching our class plan at the Murkland and it was a huge benefit having this experience beforehand.”
Kerrigan says that having classroom experience early in the program encourages him to work hard.
“I've already learned so much and gathered so many helpful insights in the education program,” he says. “Having a lesson plan in the works already is a great help for me to start acting like a teacher. I’m excited to get back into the classroom.”