Apr 18 2019

This program really feels like another family to me. Having this support system of instructors and my peers in my cohort has been so excellent.

Emma-Marie Bishun Harrison

Growing up in Ontario, Canada as the eldest of five children Emma-Marie Bishun Harrison (MIT ‘19) is no stranger to hard work and change. Like many students, Harrison's path to teaching hasn't been a straight line, but the detours have provided a deeper understanding of her calling to teach. She recalls her experience as a process of trial and error.

Early on, Harrison said she envisioned herself being a doctor, but after fainting at the sight of blood in her high school biology course she decided it was time to look into other career options. 

After completing her undergraduate studies at the University of Toronto, Harrison decided to go into teaching after speaking with a family friend about her experiences teaching abroad. Harrison spent two years teaching English at Gongdeok and Shinwon Elementary school in Seoul, South Korea. Although Harrison had an amazing experience in Seoul, upon returning to Canada she said she was still unsure if teaching was what she wanted to pursue. After attending an information session conducted by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Harrison said she decided to apply to be a police officer with the hopes of becoming a detective.

“This is something that I wanted to do at the time. RCMP was specifically focused on recruiting women and I was thinking of getting into undercover work, so this felt like the perfect opportunity,” Harrison said. “I also wanted to be involved in the community and at the same time I was helping to change the perception of what a police officer could look like.”

Her time interviewing and training she said was tough mentally and physically. The interview process alone took almost a year to complete.

“There was a physical test, written test, one-on-one interviews, a polygraph test and psychological examination. It was very thorough,” Harrison said. “You always had to make sure you were on point at all times.”

But shortly after finishing at the academy and working in the field Harrison realized that the systems and values of policing were just not the right fit for her.

She found herself back at home reflecting on what she enjoyed most. Teaching was at the forefront.

At the University of Washington College of Education, Harrison found a focus on social justice and equity in its teacher preparation program that aligned with her values.

“I was really impressed with the program structure. I didn't see this focus on social justice highlighted in the work in Canada and the Elementary Teacher Education Program had this emphasis on equity that really resonated with me.”

Michael Nielsen, a student service specialist at the College, said, “Equity is definitely infused in everything that happens in the MIT program and because it is so clear up front, those who are applying to the program come in very aware of our mission and are drawn to that. “

Harrison said she knew the College of Education was the place for her and that she wouldn’t change anything she has done thus far, because each experience was a lesson that has helped her better serve the students she works with.

“This program really feels like another family to me. Having this support system of instructors and my peers in my cohort has been so excellent and has got me to this point and I am grateful,” Harrison said.

“I think about would I change anything or do I have any regrets — and I don't. I wouldn't change anything and feel that this even includes pursing policing, because I wanted to do that,” Harrison said. “I did it for a short time and I got to see what that experience was like. The information I gained is not lost. It's still valuable in many ways and is transferable.” 

Harrison said she wants to remind people to not be afraid to try things out and that there are always opportunities to circle back or try something new. She said, “It's never too late.”

When someone is thinking about a career change into teaching, Nielsen says his advice is to listen to one's passion. “If your passion is teaching listen to that. There is a place in MIT for you. Your road may have more challenges, but you bring experience and a perspective that is valued in creating a diverse cohort.”

Story by Rosa Beyene.

Contact

Dustin Wunderlich, Director of Marketing and Communications
206-543-1035, dwunder@uw.edu