Cooper Binette ’20, MAT ’21 was hired as a student intern at Biddeford Intermediate School in Biddeford, Maine, for the school year 2020-2021 and has been receiving accolades for his work there. Due to social distancing guidelines to keep everyone healthy and safe, the school needed additional interns so that their students could continue to have in-person classes during the pandemic four days a week. At the same time, this opportunity provided Cooper with valuable real-world experience.
Rachel Somerville, Ed.D., the Interim Chair and Director of Art Education Outreach for MECA’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) graduate program, said, “Cooper is an incredibly hard worker and a caring, intuitive teacher. When the Biddeford internship opportunity was presented, he enthusiastically volunteered. Based on Cooper's performance, his prior professional experience, and the school leadership in Biddeford, I was confident that Cooper would be able to handle the dual responsibilities of teaching full-time while fulfilling the requirements of the MAT program. He has exceeded expectations, providing meaningful art experiences for his students during a challenging year and quickly becoming an active member of the school community.”
Biddeford Intermediate School Principal Lindsey Nadeau said, “Cooper demonstrates a proficiency at incorporating technology into his art lessons and supports students as they become familiar with a variety of programs and resources, assuring them that their best is all that is required. Cooper has used Google Classroom on remote learning days to keep students engaged in a subject that typically requires a hands-on approach. I am confident that Cooper has gained valuable experience this year while teaching a subject that he clearly loves during these exceptional times. He has displayed flexibility, dependability, and dedication that will serve him well as a teacher. All of this proves the strong program that the MAT students receive and how prepared they are when they complete their degree with MECA.”
After Cooper graduates, he plans on staying in the area and would like to teach at a local school. In a recent interview, Cooper reflected on his experiences and choices:
Why did you choose to enroll in the MAT program after receiving your BFA in Painting from MECA ?
I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I come from a long line of teachers on my mom's side of the family. In highschool my art teacher really changed my life for the better. Ever since then I wanted to be that person for other kids like me. MECA having this program is one of the biggest reasons for my doing the BFA here.
Are you glad you made that choice?
The MAT program is the best thing, in my opinion, that this school has to offer. I definitely don't regret my decision. I would suggest this program to anyone who is interested in teaching. There have been so many takeaways from this program, but, to list a few, I have learned about classroom management, lesson planning, curriculum building, inclusivity and antiracism in the classroom, and so much more.
What have you enjoyed most about the MAT Program?
I think the thing that has been most enjoyable is the relationships I have had the pleasure of creating. We have met so many intelligent, well spoken, passionate people who are committed to making schools a better place for everyone, along with the fact that the cohort that I am in has become very close and will remain friends and colleagues for the rest of our lives no matter how far away we all travel. We have built our own teacher community that we can always reach out to for help.
What prompted you to apply for the internship at Biddeford Intermediate School?
When Rachel Somerville, the Interim Chair of the MAT program, said that there was this opportunity, I couldn't have applied faster. The way I looked at it was that this was a way to get an experience that I would not have the chance to get anywhere else. I am glad that I made the choice I did. I have been able to make a lot of good relationships with other teachers and teacher candidates from other schools.
What is your teaching schedule like?
I have my own homeroom and class where I am in charge of six children. This means any and all home outreach, including parent teacher conferences and report cards. I then have to rotate from class to class during the day. This happens after the morning meeting with my homeroom. My mentor teaches a different grade on a whole different floor of the school so we make appointments to meet after school. Not only do I feel supported from my mentor and other teachers in my pod, but the higher-ups have been amazing.
What has it been like working during a pandemic in a public school?
Biddeford has been amazing during these challenging times. The superintendent has seemed to be one step ahead of everything and that has allowed us to stay in person for the most part. There have been some hurdles to jump through, but everyone is pretty understanding. Students have to stay in their designated spots and wear a mask all day. There was a learning curve for them, but they have all gotten a lot better at meeting these needs.
Do you have any advice for folks considering pursuing an MAT?
Absolutely go and get an MAT. Even if you don't teach in a school, there are so many different doors this degree can open. I have learned so much in so little time, it would be beneficial for anyone to do it.
Do you have any tips for art educators out there teaching during this pandemic?
Patience is key. Everyone has different circumstances and different learning challenges. We are all going through this together and it's all new to everyone, so show compassion and patience!