When Angela Messina enrolled at Whittier Regional Vocational Technical High School in Haverhill, Massachusetts, it never occurred to her that she could go to college.
She’d fallen in love with teaching young children while a middle-school student at Lawrence Catholic Academy, where she’d helped out with the kindergarten class. So she applied to Whittier Tech to study early childhood education, knowing that she would graduate with a license to teach in a day care center.
“Throughout high school, college didn’t really seem like an attainable goal for me financially,” she says.
But academically, she was in the top 10 in her class, so a guidance counselor called her in one day and encouraged her to apply to colleges with teacher education programs.
“She said, ‘Why don’t you try for it?’ and she started talking to me about scholarship possibilities and financial aid packages,” Messina says.
Messina, who had interned in both public school kindergarten classrooms and private day care centers, believed she could do more for students as a public school teacher. So she decided to make the effort, and got into every college where she applied. UMass Lowell gave her the best financial aid package, including some scholarships – and the chance to go into classrooms right from the start.
“Lowell gave me the best opportunities financially to be able to succeed in college and be able to finish what I started,” she says. “Also, what I loved specifically about this program is that you start teaching your freshman year at Lowell, and since I’d been teaching all through high school, I didn’t want to just start from scratch and not work with kids again until I was a junior.”
As an undergraduate education major in the School of Education, Messina is earning dual certifications in elementary education and teaching students with mild to moderate disabilities in grades K-8. She says that her professors have made every elementary school subject interesting, even those that she didn’t care for as a child.
“I personally did not enjoy social studies when I was in school, but (Clinical) Prof. Pat Fontaine had so many ways to make it more engaging,” she says. “(Asst. Teaching) Prof. Katherine Miller did the same thing with math.”
Messina’s favorite subject is English – which she’s added as a minor. She especially loved her poetry writing class with Assoc. Prof. Maggie Dietz, an award-winning poet. Messina has had her poetry published in The Offering, the student-run creative writing magazine.
“I’m thinking over time, possibly when I feel I’ve served my purpose in elementary education, I might want to go on to be a high school English teacher,” she says.
But for now, she’s sticking with the younger grades. As a junior, she prepared to student teach by spending one day a week in a second-grade class at Lowell STEM Academy and working one on one with a special education student.
“In the beginning, I wanted to teach kindergarten,” she says. “Since coming to UMass Lowell and working with different grade levels, I’m very open to working with other grades.”