Education

Abby Lease


Abby LeaseAbby Lease graduated from UW in 2011 with a B.A. in Classical Humanities and History and a Certificate in European Studies. She has been a History and Latin teacher at St. Ambrose Academy, a Catholic school in Madison, WI.

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My Junior and Senior Years

During my junior and senior years of undergrad, I had been determined to continue in academia and pursue my masters and doctorate in history, with the intention of working in research and teaching at the university level. I applied to graduate school that final fall, but come the spring, for various compatibility and financial reasons, these avenues were not open to me. But when this was becoming apparent, I was approached to consider teaching high school, and to meet with a board and faculty member to learn about the school’s curriculum, and then interview. I have been a faculty member at this same school since then. Looking back on that course of events, I am continually grateful that I was not able to pursue one particular path at that point, for it resulted in pushing me out of my comfort zone into a career that, I believe, provides for me greater intellectual and creative fulfillment.

My Work Life

I’ve been at my current job since the summer after graduation. I had the great fortune of interviewing and securing the position the early spring before I walked the stage, and I then transitioned from being a student to having students of my own. At first, I had not been sure if I was suited for teaching at the secondary school level, as previously I had plans for continuing research and teaching at the college level. But many of my students have proven to be as dedicated, enthusiastic, and enjoyable to learn with as students I’d known at the university.

 

This job has become my larger career path, and therefore my goals for professional development orbit my work as a history and Latin instructor, and every day can prove to be useful in building a successful career.

 

Each year’s schedule is different, but is some combination of class and preparatory time (usually much less prep time than class time). Last year, one block was used for grading, lesson planning, curriculum and professional development, etc.; one shorter block for lunch/more prep; and three blocks for Latin II, IV, and V. Class periods are 80 minutes long, and the time is divided up (differently every day, depending on content) into lecture, discussion, review, reading and translating, and student work time.

 

 

The various rewards of teaching have influenced me to continue and enrich my career as a Latin and history instructor. These rewards are found in every sphere of educational work. Sometimes it’s student interest and successes that are encouragements; other times it’s fruitful collaborative work with colleagues. And at the end of the day, and as one school year transitions into another, with new students and changes to faculty and staff, it’s the love of the material, of the learning process, and my own re-learning as I teach and gain a new understanding of the process, and of the information itself.

Skills I Learned as a History Major

Every year I am consistently referring back to the content that was taught to me by my professors and teaching assistants in the history and Classics departments. The textbooks and notebooks from each class are kept beside my other curricula materials as resources for various lessons. As my students begin to read the Iliad in their English class, I present a lecture that condenses the essential information of a semester-long Classics course on the myth and reality of Troy. When discussing the social structures of ancient Rome, I look up my notes on domestic law from History 223: Roman Women and Men. My Latin textbook, old exams, and homework exercises are regularly referred to for variety in my own students’ assessments. These are only a few examples.

 

In addition, throughout the years I’ve often reflected upon the effective teaching methods of not only my college instructors, but also my own high school teachers. They taught me how to teach by their examples, not only by memorable and effective lesson plans, but how they conveyed their passion for their subjects into the classroom.

 

In education, regardless of the level, teachers much grow as professionals every year to be successful. In addition to taking full advantage of the professional development opportunities that institutions provide, I have found that developing other skills and investing in various projects has brought renewed vigor to the whole of my work. This ranges from learning new software skills to better the production and presentation of classroom materials, to developing curricula for advanced Latin courses, and to working with colleagues for curricula coordination between history and English classes on ancient Greece and Rome. If work stagnates, and activity is too similar day-to-day and year-to-year, the worker will not be competitive. Pursuing professional improvement independently, and coming forward freely to offer services and skills, demonstrates to colleagues and supervisors investment in your own work, and in the school as a whole.

Advice for Students

Map out more than one path when you are planning out your career as a student. Generally, advisors and mentors want to be encouraging when you share with them your primary career aspiration, and they will help you down that road. But there is true value in a devil’s advocate asking the whys and what-ifs and if-nots. Be ambitious, but also be realistic, and apply that ambition to multiple career options. And then remember that different career paths do not have to be ranked above and below one another; place them side-by-side. There are many avenues that can lead to equal success and professional fulfillment.

Tim Weiss


Tim WeissTim Weiss graduated from UW in 2008 with a double major in History and Religious Studies.  He is currently the Director of Academic Advising for Arizona State University’s Humanities Division in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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My Work Life

In collaboration with the Directors of Natural Sciences and Social Sciences, I manage the day-to-day operations of the student services hub to provide major and career guidance, teach student seminars, manage a team of Academic Advisors, and help our students discover their intellectual home.

A typical day includes working with my Advising team, meeting with students, parents, faculty, and college administration, new student orientation, teaching student seminars or delivering presentations, and facilitating office hours for students as needed. Working for a university has been an extremely rewarding experience all the way through – I’d definitely encourage others to consider it for a career!

First Job After College

At UW-Madison I worked in our exercise facilities in a variety of capacities, including the front desk, fitness consultant, and personal trainer. Working for the university was a great experience, as they understood that I was a student first and allowed for a flexible work schedule. After graduation, my (now) wife pursued Teach for America and we moved to Arizona together, where I began my first job managing therapeutic trainers at an integrated healthcare facility.

After a year at that position I pursued my true passion which was working in the collegiate environment, serving as an Academic Advisor for health programs at a private university for two years while earning my Masters before joining Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation in 2011. From then on I felt at home in Academic Advising and Advising Leadership which is what brought me to where I am today.

Looking back on my professional path, I tried to view each new opportunity as a learning experience and to keep an open mind about what my next step would be. Life changes, your goals and interests change, and the world changes, so all you can do is choose the “next right thing” within the context of your situation and try to swim downstream.

Skills I Learned as a History Major

UW taught me invaluable lessons on how to research, synthesize ideas and information, support arguments with evidence, write fluidly, articulate concisely, and perhaps most important, obtain a more nuanced understanding of the world and our place within it.

Two things I learned as a history major that constantly come up is the capacity for high-level critical thinking and the ability to articulate oneself clearly. These are things that are very difficult to teach, and I felt my coursework at UW helped me immensely in this regard. No matter the job, the ability to look at a problem and synthesize the available information, stakeholder needs, potential outcomes, and variables has helped me attack complex problems in creative and insightful ways.

While at UW I heard from faculty that these degrees can teach you how to think instead of simply what to think. As a history major, I learned how to get deep into the weeds of complex ideas or processes, develop a solution, and communicate the solution persuasively to those involved (with evidence of course!). I think this is a pretty basic skill that all humanities majors learn at some point, and it has proved to be very helpful in my career.

In my specific area of Academic Advising Leadership, we work in a very student-facing atmosphere where we are constantly talking to and helping students. When hiring Advisors, I look for individuals who are complex, compassionate, and excellent communicators. Fortunately, a humanities degree can help cultivate these skills.

Advice to Students

Discovering what your path is takes time, at least it did in my case. Make sure to be patient with yourself along the way, I don’t feel that any young adult should be expected to know exactly what they want to do for the rest of their career.