Emily Mead Larsen, class of 2005, is an English Language Arts Teacher at Westfield High School and an adjunct English professor at The American Women’s College of Bay Path University. After receiving her bachelor of arts at Salem State, she went on to earn her master of arts in English for Teachers (MAET) at Western New England University.
What does your job involve?
My high school ELA teaching position is a bit unique. Westfield High School identified that we had a population of students that were failing due to attendance, social/emotional issues, lack of staff support/accountability, and healthy teacher relationships. The Pathways program was created as a satellite campus where a select group of students, in need of credit recovery and more individualized support, could find academic success.
I became the first ELA teacher in the program and with my fellow teachers, staff and administration created a supportive and rigorous environment where our credit deficient children transformed and excelled into hard-working and successful students. We greatly impacted the graduation rate for Westfield Public Schools, and for that I am very proud.
My adjunct English professor position for The American Women's College (Bay Path University) is another career that I am extremely proud of. I have had the opportunity to teach both in-person and online, courses that I loved as an undergraduate. I get to analyze literature and share my passion for classic authors and novels with a new generation of college students. My students are empowered women from a multitude of cultures, socioeconomic backgrounds and life experiences.
How have you applied your experiences at SSU to your career?
I felt more than prepared and supported by Salem State during and after my time on campus. I had the guidance of Professor Rod Kessler who taught me that a student can truly rely on an educator to not only provide academic support, but act as a life coach as well. He encouraged me to be myself, be my best and try to accomplish goals that seemed a little out of my reach. I vividly remember having the sense that I did not want to let any of my professors down by not attending every class or securing a respectable grade for each course.
I carry that demeanor when I work with my own students now. I want to be an educator that they are willing to push themselves for. I want to be the type of educator that Professor Rod Kessler exemplified as he encouraged me to set and reach my individual goals. I want to be the type of educator that my students can rely on, lean on and learn from. Those are all qualities I learned from my time at Salem State.
What do you find most enjoyable about your job?
My students are my life. Their success and happiness are what drive me to be the best teacher I can be, every single day.
What personal qualities or abilities are important to being successful in your career?
I find that the qualities I use the most in my profession are patience, forgiveness and confidence. Patience and forgiveness are directly related to my classroom management skills. A large portion of my students walk into the building every morning wearing a cloak of problems that have nothing to do with me. No matter what burden they bear, it is my job to educate them and support them.
There are many times that a student is unable to reflect and appropriately explain the feelings or situations they are dealing with, and for that I must forgive and have patience. I am there to be their life-raft, not their executioner. Confidence is important when it comes to creating rigorous lessons that are attainable for my students. I must have confidence that I know my material, I know my students and I have been properly trained and educated to teach them.
How do you adapt and stay current on developments in your field?
I engage in a large amount of professional development provided by my school department. I also take graduate courses to learn new techniques to use in my classroom.
What were your favorite classes at SSU?
I adored all my English courses. I especially loved the American Literature courses, and the African American Literature Courses. I have extremely fond memories of "The History of the English Language" with Professor Branscomb.
What was your favorite thing about SSU?
I loved the campus of Salem State. It has changed quite a bit since I attended. I also loved Alumni Field where I played on the Salem State Women's Soccer team. The most important item that I took from Salem was my husband. We met freshman year in Bowditch Hall, got married in 2008, and now have two beautiful daughters.
Why did you want to major in English?
To be honest, I knew I wanted to be a teacher by the time I was in second grade. I knew I wanted to be an ELA teacher by the time I was in 9th grade. I couldn't see myself working in any other occupation.