Avondine Hill is passionate about becoming the kind of teacher who transforms his students’ lives.
Although he is still a student in the MA + Teacher Licensure program at CU Denver’s School of Education & Human Development, he is already putting his passion for teaching social studies into action. During his first two internships at Hinkley High School in Aurora, the most remarkable moments in his teacher candidacy involved passionate, respectful and hard discussions about serious societal issues.
“Last semester involved almost daily dialogs about prejudice, racism and oppression as they relate to U.S. and world history,” Hill recalled. “These are perfect teaching moments for me to help my students think critically about their role in the world. I remember saying to myself multiple times, ‘Wow, this is why I chose to teach.’”
For Hill, who attended eight different elementary schools before he reached high school, becoming a teacher is an opportunity to rewrite his personal history, giving students some of the educational opportunities that he didn’t have as a youth.
The importance of a multicultural curriculum
Hill grew up in New Mexico, the son of a single mother who supported them by “working her tail off.” Sadly, when he was a child, the mainstream curriculum in the schools nationwide rarely featured or celebrated diverse cultures.
Now that he is studying to teach social studies at the secondary level, he is mindful of infusing his lessons with culturally relevant literature and activities. “I encourage my students to learn to view the world’s major ideas and events through different cultural lenses,” he said. “I know what it means to have an education that doesn’t incorporate your people’s history into the curriculum. It’s a disservice for students, their families and their communities. When students see their ethnic and cultural identities represented in the curriculum, they see that their history is valued, which serves to further students’ sense of inquiry and political efficacy.”
After graduating from high school, Hill spent four years drifting from college to various jobs and finally enlisting in military service. He spent seven years in the U.S. Navy and then enrolled in community college. As an undergraduate, he found his passion: ethnic studies, a program that uncovered untold histories, ways of being, and provided him with new theoretical tools to critically assess society, himself and the world around him.
But when he graduated, he had to ask himself an important question: What would he do with a degree in ethnic studies? To him, teaching seemed like a natural fit, and CU Denver offered the perfect program for his needs.
His students: ‘They inspire me’
Ask Hill what drew him to MA + Teacher Licensure, and he praises the streamlined program. In just 18 months, he will have his teaching license and a master’s degree in curriculum and instruction. He also likes the extensive practical experience afforded by the close partnership with multiple Denver metro–area school districts. Hill spent one semester in classes, but by the end of his second semester he had done two internships in local schools. His third semester will bring a third internship, again with coaching from dedicated faculty and master practicing teachers.
“This process gradually eased me into full responsibility for a class,” Hill said. “I learned how to have the emotional energy that it takes to be a teacher.”
Hill praises some of his CU Denver professors for their willingness to “show up outside of class” whenever he needed help or support. In turn, he talks enthusiastically about how he supports his own students.
“They inspire me,” he said. “The kids bring plenty to the plate, and I bring something. It’s a collaboration.”
Prepared to be ‘the best first-year teacher’
With the MA + Teacher Licensure program as his foundation, Hill has clearly already had an impact at Hinkley High School. He was asked to return for another internship during this third and final semester in the CU Denver program. He continues to use his own educational experience to inform his teaching.
“I always ask the same questions,” he said. “Who are we teaching? Why are we teaching this material? How can we do it the best way possible, giving students the opportunities we promised when we ask them to come to class?”
Hill plans to continue his graduate studies with the hope that he can someday complete his PhD. He’s eager to get inside his own classroom and help students understand the world through their own filter.
“My goal is to be the best first-year teacher I can be,” he said. “The MA + Teacher Licensure program is unique. It has absolutely given me the tools to be prepared and successful when I walk into my first class.”