Teaching in the Bay
University of Idaho student Abigail Dunn found a passion for English during her summer breaks teaching underserved children in her hometown in California.
When Abigail Dunn was 12 her father quit his job and went back to school to become a history teacher.
“My dad taught me the importance of doing what you love, of embracing challenges and to view teaching as a continual learning process,” Dunn said.
Inspired by her dad’s passion for education, Dunn, a junior studying English in the University of Idaho’s College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, has spent the last two summers teaching underserved middle schoolers in the Bay Area near her hometown of Larkspur, California.
“I have never found something that I absolutely loved like teaching. It gave me a direction for studying English,” Dunn said. “It meant a lot to be able to teach in my hometown and interact with these students that came from such diverse backgrounds but were such great students.”
Dunn is teaching through Breakthrough Collaborative, a program that provides summer and school-year opportunities for students from marginalized communities. Prospective teachers like Dunn get first-hand experience teaching as undergraduates, while communities that need more attention get support.
Her students were entirely non-white and low income, making for a unique teaching environment.
“I have always liked kids, and I am so passionate about teaching these kids because it is such an important point in their lives,” Dunn said. “So many kids at that age get lost without the opportunity to catch back up, and it’s a neglected age group because everyone wants to teach elementary or high schoolers.”
Originally a biology major, Dunn spent her first summer in the program teaching sixth grade biology. After changing her major to satisfy her love for English, she taught seventh grade English the following year.
“I’m glad that I had both experiences, because I know how important it is to be versatile and how badly we need teachers everywhere. I was able to watch these kids grow over the course of a year, and it was so amazing to see the excitement in their eyes,” Dunn said.
She is especially passionate about diversity in representation, and works to select books for her students away from the traditionally celebrated white writers.
“My forays into non-western literature were great because I got to use them in my work,” Dunn said. “The kids that I taught were able to read stories by authors and about characters that were like them and shared their issues. This especially rang true with ‘The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian’ by Sherman Alexie.”
Article by Jonah Baker ‘18, CLASS Marketing and Communications
Published in May 2018.