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Maja First Career Community

For a first-time teacher, teaching kids barely out of Pampers can be a lot like herding cats — only with fewer hairballs.

Maja Petras found herself in the role of cat-herder, er, primary school teacher earlier this month. Petras, made a pre-kindergarten class at the Villages Elementary School her proving ground for auditioning her solo teaching technique.

Petras is a client of Beacon College’s pilot First Career Community. Funded by a $50,000 grant from the David R. Clare and Margaret C. Clare Foundation, a Morristown, NJ charity whose funding areas include higher education and human services, FCC is a two-year postgraduate program for Beacon College graduates that blends mentoring, life skills education and gainful employment in a residential environment.

One lesson she learned in her debut?

Turns out four and five-year-old cats, er, kids, curl up nicely on the floor if you read them Bear Counts by Karma Wilson.

Here are other insights Petras picked up from her day in charge:

Q: How did it feel teaching on your own for the first time?
A: At first, I was a little nervous, but once I started reading them the story and getting into teaching, I wasn’t as nervous. It was an awesome feeling to be able to teach and to see that the students were engaged in the lesson plan I created. I got some awesome feedback from [the pre-K teacher] Mrs. Jarrett and she thought the activity I did was great. I did a lesson plan about counting so I had different color bears that I had them sort by color.

Q: How do you think you did?
A: Overall, I think I did a great job, however there is always room for improvement. I think you should never stop learning. I learn so much from the kids and they have such great personalities that it helps when I’m teaching because they help me stay focused and on track.

Q: What was the coolest thing about your day?
A: Honestly, I think the coolest thing about my day is when I first came in and saw how excited the kids got when I came in. To see their faces light up with happiness really made me feel like I have chosen the right profession. And seeing the students make progress and meet milestones throughout the day has been eye-opening.