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A Love for Learning Layne Setash '19 recently earned a Distinguished Teacher Award from the Virginia Association of Colleges of Teacher Education.

“I was able to accumulate over 650 hours of classroom experience while at W&L because of the unique structure of our teacher education program. These hours of experience have set me up to meet the needs of future students and be prepared when I enter my own classroom.”

~ Layne Setash ’19

Layne Setash ’19 recently earned a Distinguished Teacher Award from the Virginia Association of Colleges of Teacher Education. As graduation approaches, she reflects on her time at Washington and Lee and how her experience here has prepared her to educate. From her role as a student teacher at a local elementary school, Setash has realized that teaching is more than an average everyday job.

Hometown: Centreville, Virginia

Major: Economics

Minor: Education Policy, seeking Elementary PK-6 Licensure

What is a Distinguished Teacher Award and how did it feel to earn it?

I was nominated by Dr. Haley Sigler, the director of W&L’s Teacher Education program, for this award. It is awarded annually by the Virginia Association of Colleges of Teacher Education (VACTE) to two student teachers in the state of Virginia who show outstanding teaching potential. It felt incredible to earn this award and be recognized for the work I have put forth in my education coursework and practicum experiences. I am so grateful that Professor Sigler nominated me for this award, especially because it provided me the opportunity to recognize her. In my application, I nominated Professor Sigler to be recognized for her dedication to W&L’s Teacher Education program. She received VACTE’s Inspirational Educator Award.

Why is this kind of experience important to W&L students?

Being in elementary classrooms across Rockbridge County and Lexington City has given me the chance to truly connect with and understand the community we live in. At Washington and Lee, we’ve all been so fortunate to receive such a high-quality education and I think it’s important to give back to our community. In the craziness and stress that each semester brings, a few hours in an elementary practicum placement, with a class of smiling and excited children, can be a nice change of pace. I have found that I’ve learned so many lessons from the elementary students I’ve interacted with, from the importance of patience to the power of just being silly sometimes.

 What makes you passionate about teaching?

I’ve had teachers throughout my education that have helped me in cultivating my love of learning, and I want to be able to help these young students discover their love for learning. I am passionate about teaching because I want to show children that learning can be engaging, fun and exciting. I want students to come to school daily, eager to learn something new and with an optimistic outlook on life. Teachers have the power to instill the love of learning in students and that is something crucial to our society. Through my economics courses, I repeatedly saw the intricate ways through which education affects so many sectors of our society. As an educator, I will be able to directly interact with our future scientists, politicians, teachers and doctors to help them grow both academically and emotionally.

What is it like being a student teacher for first graders at Central Elementary School?

Student teaching is a full-time commitment, meaning I work the exact same schedule as my cooperating schedule. In the classroom, I have taken on the role of a second teacher for my 19 first graders. The first few weeks of the term were spent adjusting, but I spent the majority of the semester co-teaching with my cooperating teacher. We taught lessons together, bouncing ideas off each other or each taking a group of students to work with. I attended faculty meetings, worked on teacher workdays and completed lesson plans on a weekly basis. I teach all the subjects, deal with behavioral issues and classroom management, and tie plenty of shoes. I have formed a close bond with all my students, as well as with my cooperating teacher.

What is the most interesting knowledge you’ve picked up while doing this work?

My class was working on their weekly spelling patterns and students were struggling with the -ing patterns, particularly in the word “thing.” They all wanted to write “thang” and I was confused as to why they were all making this mistake. When I asked them to sound it out and they all pronounced “thing” as “thang” with their Southern accents, it created some understandable confusion among the students. I never realized that teaching spelling and letter sounds could be so greatly impacted by regional accents. Each group of students I have worked with has presented me with new challenges, forcing me to think of different ways to convey ideas.

 What has been the most challenging part of student-teaching?

My biggest realization through my time student-teaching at Central Elementary has been that the demands of teaching do not stop at the end of the work day or the end of the lesson plans. These kids need more from their teachers. They need someone to be their cheerleader, to make sure they’re getting enough food to eat at home, to make sure they have warm clothes to wear in the winter, to give them that positive reinforcement they might not get at home, and to wholeheartedly believe in them and the things they can accomplish. The role of a teacher is much more than just teaching students the necessary material, making it a particularly complex job.

You’ve traveled abroad while at W&L. Where did you go and how did that impact the way in which you view education?

I was fortunate enough to travel with Professor Sigler and Professor Tim Diette to Denmark for their joint course to study Danish childhood. We spent three weeks in Denmark touring schools and speaking with students, policy makers, educators and parents. At the end of the course, we got the opportunity to spend three days in a school outside of Copenhagen, where I co-taught a four hour lesson on basic economics with two other W&L students to a group of 20 Danish students. These experiences in Denmark exposed me to an entirely different approach to childhood. The Danish mindset is about savoring childhood and the exploration and growth that occurs so naturally during this time. They also see early education as being an independent learning experience, rather than in preparation for the next step of the child’s life. After my experience in Denmark, I hope to bring some of the Danish approaches to education into my classroom.

How has W&L prepared you for the next steps in your life after graduation?

The combination of academics and extracurricular opportunities have uniquely set me up for success as an educator. I was able to accumulate over 650 hours of classroom experience while at W&L because of the unique structure of our teacher education program. These hours of experience have set me up to meet the needs of future students and be prepared when I enter my own classroom. In my role as a Burish Intern, I was able to serve as a liaison between Central Elementary and Washington and Lee to organize volunteers at the elementary school. Furthermore, my economics courses have taught me to constantly think critically about problems and exposed me to a wide variety of issues. Overall, the liberal arts education has given me the opportunity to study a variety of topics beyond education and economics.

What are your plans after your graduate?

I hope to teach first or second grade in Fairfax County after graduation. I grew up in Fairfax County and would love to give back to the district that helped me get to where I am today.

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More About Layne

What extracurricular activities do you do?

Burish Intern for Central Elementary, Appalachian Adventure Leader, Outing Club, Girls on the Run Assistant Coach

Why did you choose your major?

Economics caught my attention initially because of how closely it ties in with education. I took both an education and an economics course as a sophomore, and their interconnectedness was striking. These two topics meshed seamlessly and were the perfect major/minor combination. I’m grateful that these two departments worked together to ensure that I could complete a semester of student-teaching prior to graduation.

Has anyone on campus inspired you?

Professor Sigler has inspired me throughout my four years at W&L and has helped me become the educator I am today. The experience and passion that she brings to all her courses makes them incredibly impactful. Whenever I go to Professor Sigler, unsure about my career path or a lesson plan or just looking for advice, she provides valuable insight and guidance.

Favorite place to eat in Lexington? What do you order?

 I love Napa Thai; I always get the Pad See Ew with extra vegetables.

What one film/book do you recommend to everyone?

 “The Shadow of the Wind” by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Favorite W&L memory:

Watching the sunrise on McAfee Knob during App Adventure during my freshman year as a trip participant and my senior year as a trip leader.

Favorite class

Professor Goldsmith’s Economics of Social Issues course has been my favorite course. It was truly the course that led me to being an economics major along with getting my elementary education license. The course exposed me to a wide variety of topics and challenged me to think critically about how we approach the social issues our country faces.

Favorite W&L event

App Adventure, especially when all the first-year students get out to the Pavilion because there is just so much energy and excitement in the room