Article originally ran in WESmag Spring 2018
Update February 2020: Today Zoe serves as a lower elementary assistant at The Post Oak School in Houston, Texas, a Montesorri school that teaches students to learn by observing nature.
Zoe Nuhfer (Class of 2019) admits that at first she was unsure about enrolling in a small college for women. She considered herself more of a big-city-school kind of student but decided to visit Wesleyan to make sure. She was interested in studying international relations, so after a campus tour, Professor of Political Science Dr. Barbara Donovan, “invited me to have lunch with her, a couple of other professors, and a few students. That invitation and my conversation over lunch completely sold me on Wesleyan. It was obvious that the professors cared deeply about their subject areas and about their students as individuals. The excitement I saw in the faculty and the students was contagious. I put in my housing deposit that night. I am so grateful to all the donors, the faculty, staff, and students who have made my Wesleyan experience possible. At Wesleyan I’ve found my family, and I’ve found myself.”
Zoe is the recipient of the prestigious Mary Knox McNeill full-tuition scholarship, serves as a campus ministry assistant, and is a Wesleyan Disciple, but she is not an international relations major. “One day about a month into my first year I happened to wander into the model classroom in the Education Department. I immediately felt a calling. By the end of that week, I had quietly recycled my international relations declaration form and rung the bell in the Education Department.”
Zoe enjoyed being an education major until the middle of her sophomore year. “I still liked my education classes, but while observing and assisting in local elementary schools, something wasn’t matching up. I knew I was passionate about education and youth development, but it was quickly becoming clear that I did not want to teach in a traditional setting.”
That same semester Zoe was taking a biology class to fulfill a general education requirement and discovered it was one of her favorite classes. She credits Professor of Biology Dr. Holly Boettger-Tong for helping her uncover her love for science. She changed her major to environmental studies, kept education as her minor, and looked for a new way to apply her studies to a successful and satisfying career. Associate Professor of Education Dr. Virginia Bowman Wilcox ’90 helped Zoe arrange two internships. Interning at Macon’s Museum of Arts and Sciences, Zoe says, turned out to be one of the most meaningful experiences of her time at Wesleyan, but it was an internship at Montessori of Macon that reignited her love for teaching. After one semester teaching ecology, Zoe was invited back to teach for another semester.
“The Montessori classroom fits so perfectly with my values and ideas about education and gives me countless opportunities to share my love of environmental science with my students. In March I accepted a part-time job at the school. It’s my first step toward becoming a certified Montessori teacher.”
According to Dr. Wilcox, “Within the Montessori process, Zoe has found a place that allows her to combine her high standards of student behaviors and expectations with her innovative instructional ideas but also requires her to utilize her strong content knowledge in the activities and lessons she plans.”
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