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Alumni Spotlight: Chelsea Thompson (MAT)

Furman Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) alumni and social studies teacher Chelsea Thompson, who works at James F. Byrnes High School discusses her experiences with the MAT program and how it prepared her for her teaching career. 


What led you into a career in teaching? And how did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

I like to say I took the long way around when it comes to my decision to be a teacher. While in highschool, I thought about teaching, however, I pursued other interests during my undergraduate program at Clemson University. I graduated with a B.A. in Communications and History, but when I started looking for jobs I felt there wasn’t anything I was passionate about. So, my mind went back to teaching, something I always thought I would be good at and enjoy. The more excited I got while researching different programs to obtain my teaching certificate, the more confident I was that teaching was for me.


How do you think Furman’s MAT program benefited you for your career?

My career benefitted from Furman’s MAT program because Furman helped me to develop an understanding of how to make content more interesting for students. My methods class is what I consider to be the most beneficial as Dr. Lipscomb introduced me to many different types of hands-on activities that students could do to make history come alive in the classroom.


How would you describe your teaching style? And how did Furman play a role in developing your strengths and approach to teaching?

I think of my teaching style to be a good mix of creative thinking and historical analysis. I love for my students to be able to create products of learning like posters, storyboards, Tik Toks, skits, political cartoons, brochures, etc. However, in order to make these things, they must first have a deep understanding of the topic at hand. So I often have students conduct research or analyze primary and secondary sources first, and then they’ll create something that they can use to teach the class about what they’ve learned. Furman played a role in developing this approach by introducing me to project-based learning and teaching me how to structure such a lesson.


Is there something you learned through MAT you apply to the classroom on a daily basis?

One thing I learned through MAT that I use daily is classroom management and relationship management with coworkers, and I love the MAT approach to student teaching. I was able to be with the same teacher and students the entire school year. I believe this helped me become more confident in the classroom setting and enforcing my expectations because I was able to get comfortable in my environment and with my cooperating teacher. I also got more confident talking to other teachers, supporting staff, and administrators because I saw them more often. It is my understanding that not all student teachers have this opportunity, so I was very happy to be in my placement for an extended amount of time.


Is there anything you wish you’d done differently during grad school? And for those who are considering a career in teaching, what advice do you have for them?

If I could do grad school differently, I would have tried to be more outgoing while student teaching. I think I could have asked more questions or for more input on my lessons and anyone would have been happy to help. I also think it could have been beneficial to spend more time on campus. My time was limited due to COVID, but what time I did spend studying on campus was nice.

My advice to anyone considering teaching as a career would be to just follow your gut feeling. As I mentioned before, I had thought about teaching, tried something else, and then came back to it because I just knew it would make me happier. It is a lot of hard work, but if you are passionate about your students and know how to form meaningful relationships, it’s a pretty great career.


Is there something that you found to be unexpected about your career that you did not necessarily think about in grad school?

Something unexpected about my career that I didn’t really think about during grad school is the ADEPT process you have to go through in the first two years of your career. It’s what you have to go through to move your teaching certificate from “initial” to “professional.” It involves a lot of meetings, observations, and for my district, an induction class with online assignments. Aside from that, there are also additional meetings and responsibilities that your school may require, so you may want to ask about these in an interview.


What are the most challenging and rewarding aspects of your career?

The most challenging and most rewarding part of my job can be summed up into two words: the kids. They are both the hardest and best part of my day. Managing some of their behavior issues can be a big challenge. I have many students who I think are awesome kids, but like to distract the class with jokes, off-topic comments, or by roaming around. There are also those who simply don’t want to be at school so they do anything but their work. Walking the line between being a compassionate teacher and an authoritative figure can be difficult. However, my students also make me laugh, surprise me with their wits, and talk to me about their lives which is always interesting. Hearing that they think my class is fun or that I’m the teacher they feel comfortable with makes me feel like the work that I do is worthwhile.



Furman University’s Master of Arts in Teaching program is equipped with the education, resources, and connections to make you an outstanding teacher in the state. Furman’s MAT program is now accepting applications for those who wish to enroll. For more information, click HERE.