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Domers learn how to be teachers at Saint Mary’s

Katie McCarty | Friday, April 26, 2013


For a small number of Notre Dame students, taking classes at Saint Mary’s is a normal part of their daily schedule.

Junior John Brahier, who is majoring in mathematics at Notre Dame and pursuing a secondary education minor at Saint Mary’s, said he has taken several required courses for his minor at Saint Mary’s.

“I’ve taken a number of classes at SMC, all part of my secondary education major,” Brahier said. “SMC has the education program I was looking for, so when I graduate, the plan is that I’ll have both the secondary education minor and a license to teach.”

Junior Madeline Swan, who is a math and sociology double major, also has a secondary education minor at Saint Mary’s. 

Swan said the small class sizes, good learning environments, and caring professors are instrumental to her success at Saint Mary’s.

Her experience at Saint Mary’s has helped her move past common prejudices held between female students at Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s, Swan said.

“The professors have been awesome and I have met some truly great classmates,” Swan said. “Also, this has helped me break down stereotype barriers for me that are typically present between SMC and ND girls.”

Brahier said it was initially difficult to be the only male in many of his Saint Mary’s courses, but the transition has gotten easier with time.

“It was a big difference for me at first because I came from an all-guys high school, so to go to classes of almost all girls was a pretty big change,” he said. “Obviously there was a bit of an adjustment period at first, but it’s not really a big deal in the long-run.”

Brahier said his decision to enroll at Saint Mary’s was due to Notre Dame not offering the education training he wanted.

“My plan after graduation is to teach math in a high school, but Notre Dame doesn’t have an Education Department that directly prepares students to be teachers and helps with the licensing process,” he said.

Brahier said taking courses through the education department at Saint Mary’s has been a positive experience and his professors take an interest in student success.

“The Education Department at SMC has sponsored some really cool events related to social justice in education and is a big proponent of service-learning,” Brahier said. “By and large, the faculty I’ve worked with at SMC have been great – they seem to really care about each student and want us to do our best. In general, I think that’s definitely true at Notre Dame as well.”

Notre Dame students enrolled in Saint Mary’s classes are assigned a Saint Mary’s advisor in addition to their advisor at Notre Dame, Brahier said. His Saint Mary’s helps him choose his courses and build his schedule, he said. 

Brahier said he works with his two advisors separately.

“If I have a question about education classes, I have to go to the SMC advisor,” he said. “For math or theology, I go to my advisor from each of those departments at ND.”

He said his courses at Saint Mary’s are determined by his major requirements, so he meets with his Saint Mary’s advisor regularly and registers for courses in person.

“Registration for my classes at SMC is relatively straightforward because I have a pretty set list of classes that I have to take, so basically I just meet with my advisor over there on a regular basis to make sure I stay on track from semester to semester,” Brahier said. “I don’t do any online registration for those classes – instead, it’s all through contact with my advisor.”

Swan said she feels fortunate to have the opportunity to study at both institutions.

“I’ve discovered how lucky I am to get the change to participate in such a great education program as an ND student as well as collaborate and learn from some great Saint Mary’s students,” she said.

Brahier said the combination of classes from Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s has also been rewarding for him.

“Both schools definitely are focused on their identities as Catholic schools, and both schools have a sense of purpose and mission,” he said. “My favorite part of the secondary education minor at SMC has been getting to work with the faculty that is so passionate about preparing us to be great teachers. Their staff is dedicated and wants us to do our best, and studying in that incredibly positive atmosphere has been very rewarding.”