History and Spanish Teacher, Boston College High School (Boston, MA)
Eric Mendoza came to Boston College already having a degree in secondary education. He knew how to write a lesson plan—but the Lynch School showed him how to execute it.
"My time at the Lynch School can be summed up in one word: applicability," Eric Mendoza says. "My professors took teaching from the theoretical to real world relevancy."
As part of the Urban Catholic Teacher Corps, Mendoza was placed at St. Columbkille Partnership School. While teaching middle school, he found areas for improvement—and was able to do so using skills he was learning in his master’s program.
“I not only created a lesson plan to meet a content objective, I became more acutely aware of the students’ developmental and social needs,” he says.
Mendoza, who has a bachelor of arts in history and secondary education from Gonzaga University, utilized feedback from professors and fellow students to analyze his students’ data and strengthen his teaching.
“When I began teaching at St. Columbkille I struggled to create lesson plans that met the expectations I had set for students,” he recalls. “My Applied Adolescent Development course helped explain the different stages of brain development and have me more insight on what was feasible for each age group.”
Mendoza began developing rigorous lessons that challenged, but did not overwhelm, students. He credits his professional growth to the field experience that complemented what he was learning.
“While theory has its place, if you cannot see it applied on a daily basis, it’s hard to apply it on your own,” he says. “The Lynch School had a variety of opportunities to give students real-world experience, so that once they’re in their own classroom, they are confident to hit the ground running.”
Mendoza, the son of two immigrants from Mexico, also benefitted from the varied experiences of his peers.
“What was best about collaborating with classmates was the fact that they not only came from different backgrounds, but, more importantly, they taught in a variety of different backgrounds,” he explains. “When we researched a topic in a given class, we could discuss how it could impact our students, which produced a variety of responses. Someone who taught in a private school in Newton was bound to have different experiences than someone who taught in a public school in Roxbury.”
Despite different school settings, Mendoza and his classmates discovered that in many cases they found similarities among their students and could devise a best course of action—which was adapted for each situation.
“I think one reason for these varied experiences was the city itself,” he recalls. “Boston has the ability for students to experience a wide range of educational environments without the size issues they might find in a city like New York, Los Angeles, or Dallas.”
Boston may be smaller in size, but Mendoza found ample educational opportunities in the city known as the “Hub.”
“In a relatively short distance, students can find themselves at urban public schools or high-achieving private academies. They can work with immigrant and refugee populations or work in a faith-based community,” he says.
These unique perspectives, while providing engaging discussions that challenged Mendoza’s assumptions, still impact him.
“Teaching is not done in a bubble and teachers need to be very aware of what students bring with them each day,” Mendoza says. “There is no such thing as a ‘perfect classroom.’ I think the most important thing I learned is that many times lesson plans don’t work out exactly how you want them to—you have to be deft to change plans according to your students’ needs.”