Emma Kilbane with her students in South Africa
Hometown: Cumberland, RI
Degree: Philosophy, and Nonviolence and Peace Studies minor
How do you get kids excited about school when you don’t speak their language? You can start by singing popular Hannah Montana and Beyoncé songs with them, like Emma Kilbane did. While teaching English at a township school in South Africa, she often started her one-on-one lessons with sing-alongs to make the kids comfortable.
She’s a philosophy major, but her volunteer experiences sparked an interest in teaching. Before going to Africa, Emma volunteered with the Jumpstart program. Twice a week for a year, she spent time with three kids at a local preschool, playing games that teach early reading and writing skills.
She considered joining the Peace Corps or the military after she graduates this May, but her education experiences helped her decide on Teach for America. She’s still waiting to hear about her exact school and grade placement, but she knows she’ll spend two years at a low-income South Carolina elementary school.
“Throughout my college career, I’ve invested a lot of time learning—and in some cases, witnessing firsthand—the issues that America’s public schools currently face, and I felt a pull to do something about it,” Emma said.
Emma admits that she’s not sure what lies ahead after she finishes with Teach for America. But unlike some students, she finds the uncertainty refreshing; not intimidating.
“I’m not a big fan of tunnel vision because I feel like it closes doors instead of opens them,” she said. “I want to take these next two years and just see where I end up.”
It’s amazing how one experience can reshape your entire career path. Emma didn’t major in education, but her volunteer work inspired her to be a teacher. We can’t wait to find out how URI inspires you.