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Alumni Spotlights

Lizzy Westbrook

Lizzy WestbrookAfter graduating from the University of Tennessee in May of 2014, I spent a year in my hometown of Nashville working primarily as a substitute teacher and discerning what my next move was going to be. This year was full of difficult and rewarding teaching experiences that solidified in me my desire to work with youth and be an educator. My goal was (and still is) to become a high school teacher, so the next logical step was to earn a Master of Education degree the following year. When applying to graduate school, I put all of my proverbial eggs in one basket, and, as is often the case, that venture did not end up working out. However, through that disappointment came an opportunity that would end up being a great adventure!

About two weeks before the start of summer classes, I was accepted into the PACT Program at Providence College in Rhode Island. PACT stands for Providence Alliance for Catholic Teachers, and it is a program designed to allow teachers to earn a master’s degree free of charge while teaching in a Catholic school in Rhode Island or Massachusetts. PACT is one of many programs across the country that strives to support Catholic schools by training and educating young, passionate teachers who, in turn, invigorate and enliven the schools in which they serve. Before the opportunity to be a part of PACT presented itself, I had never heard of Providence College and did not really have a strong desire to move to New England, but with no “plan B” lined up, I was all in.

After two years of teaching middle school English and religion and taking classes at PC, I earned my Master of Education degree this past May. At the beginning of my PACT journey, I was placed at Saint Francis Xavier School in Acushnet, Massachusetts, a small town in between Providence, RI and Cape Cod. While teaching middle schoolers might seem like an absolute nightmare to some, I have found teaching them and helping them grow into the best versions of themselves to be very rewarding and fun. Teaching English is certainly enjoyable, but what I love even more is teaching religion.

While a vast majority of what I teach is about the Catholic faith, I very intentionally encourage my students to learn about other religions and always maintain a healthy curiosity about religion in their own lives and the lives of others. My religious studies professors at UT allowed me to recognize the presence and importance of religion in many aspects of our culture, not just among the four walls of a place of worship. I found during my time as a religious studies minor that learning about other religions not only helped me understand people around me better, but it also helped me understand and appreciate my own faith, which is something I really try to convey to my students. While I do hope that they remember the names of the virtues, the ins and outs of all the sacraments, and other things I have taught them, a greater hope of mine is that they are truth-seeking, lifelong learners who approach others’ differences with curiosity and respect.

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