Erica Aiken is a 2014 graduate of the Master’s in History program at Virginia Tech and is currently working as an English 9 Lead Teacher and Professional Development Lead Teacher at Bowie High School.
Q: After graduating from Virginia Tech’s M.A. program, what have you done professionally?
A: After graduating, I entered the Resident Teacher Program in Prince George’s County, Maryland, and started teaching English at Bowie High School. I am now in my third year of teaching, and I’ve been promoted to the lead teacher for my grade, and the professional development lead teacher for my school. Currently, I’m researching strategies to decrease ninth grade retention in our school.
Q: How did your experience at Virginia Tech impact your career after graduate school?
A: I was extremely fortunate at Tech to work with the faculty members in the History department. Many of my professors were interested in my professional goals, and spent time mentoring me so that I would choose the right classes and activities to prepare myself for a career in education. Dr. Kiechle took special time out to take me to tea one day and discuss my strengths as a scholar and where I saw myself going after graduation. Dr. Jones always made time to discuss my career plains and tailor my class schedule and research projects to fit my goals. Dr. Stephens was an excellent mentor as I worked with him as a graduate teaching assistant.
Q: What advice would you give current or future students wanting to pursue a path similar to yours?
A: Take advantage of the resources around you- namely our esteemed faculty. They have all survived graduate school, and they genuinely care about helping you be successful in your career. There are so many career paths you can go down with the M.A. in History, so keep your mind open and be willing to take advice from your professors.
Q: What has been a major challenge you have encountered in your career? How have you dealt with it?
A: At first, I was a little overwhelmed about finding ways to manage my time with the heavy workload of an English teacher. I had to find time daily to plan lessons for adequate instruction, tweak the curriculum to fit the needs of my students, maintain contact with parents, and of course grade essays. I was able to deal with this relatively quickly thanks to my time as an M.A. student at Virginia Tech. The History program is equally challenging, and required a great deal of reading and writing for the course load and research requirements. Likewise, as a graduate teaching assistant, I also had to fit in grading papers and working with undergraduate students to ensure that they performed well in the course. The M.A. experience helped me learn how to manage my time so that I could work efficiently and still enjoy my hobbies. I’m glad this work-life balance could easily translate over to my career.
Q: What are your plans from here?
A: I remain a scholar, and I am currently pursuing a PhD in Education from Walden University. My family is also growing as my husband and I welcomed twins in February of 2016, and we anxiously await the birth of our third child in April of 2017. As I move forward, I see myself working to grow as a mother, a scholar, and a teacher. It wouldn’t be much of a stretch to argue that my research on childhood and play with Dr. Jones has even translated over into how I function as a parent, but perhaps that’s best saved for another interview!