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Child Studies Program


McKenzie Mann-Wood with Breakthrough cohort

McKenzie Mann-Wood with Breakthrough cohort

Exploring Life as a Teacher

English and Child Studies major Mac Mann-Wood ‘22 explored the reality of life as a teacher during her REAL placement.

English and Child Studies major Mac Mann-Wood ‘22 explored the reality of life as a teacher during her REAL placement.

By Ally O’Connor ’20

McKenzie Mann-Wood

Pursuing her goal of working as an English teacher, Mac Mann-Wood ’22 (English and Child Studies) spent last summer as a classroom teacher with Breakthrough Silicon Valley, a non-profit organization that works to help low-income, first-generation students on their path to college. Thanks to funding and support from Santa Clara University’s REAL program, Mann-Wood was able to devote six weeks to exploring what living out her life’s dream might actually look like.

When asked what drew her to the Breakthrough, Mann-Wood explains that "I found myself really aligned with their goals and I knew that I wanted to be involved.” A native of Wyoming, her placement at Yerba Buena high school required her to live and work in the Bay Area. Without family in the local area, the stipend provided by the REAL program allowed her to live near campus and commute to her placement in San Jose.

Working in the rising ninth-grade program, Mann-Wood was partnered with a professional educator who also acted as a coach. In addition to gaining experience in the classroom, she learned how to lesson plan, how to lead a class, and was guided by her coach through the process. Teaching two English classes and an elective in the afternoon on wellness, Mann-Wood admits that leading a class was daunting at first. Ultimately, she is proud that “over time, I strengthened my confidence and felt well prepared.”

As part of the program, Mann-Wood was required to participate in a one-week orientation and a one-week debrief after her placement. Through these, she was able to better focus her learning and teaching, and was offered the chance to reflect deeply on her experience.

“I really loved the relationships that I developed with my students,” she says when asked about her favorite part of the summer internship. “At the end of the program, one of the students who was really quiet and I thought I hadn’t reached came up to me, gave me a big hug, and said I was one of the best English teachers he had ever had. I almost cried.”

Thanks to moving moments like this, Mann-Wood feels like her aspirations were reaffirmed and is continuing to work hard towards the goal of turning this teaching dream into a career reality.


About the REAL Program

The College of Arts and Sciences developed the REAL Program to allow students to discover their interests, gain a rich understanding of a particular field, discern their career goals, and explore future employment fields. We believe financial means should not determine whether or not a student can participate in internships, research, projects or creative works opportunities. Committed to providing paid experiential learning opportunities for students, the REAL Program provides stipends up to $5,000 for undergraduate opportunities lasting up to 10 weeks over the summer. Since inception, the program has distributed nearly $1.3 million to more than 300 students.