• Downtown Memphis

August 10, 2022

By Haley Dittbrenner ’25

Kathryn Olson ?23 surrounded by her students in Memphis. Kathryn Olson ’23 surrounded by her students in Memphis.
Credit: Memphis Teacher Residency
Kathryn Olson ’23 described the Memphis Teacher Residency program as “the biggest blessing.” The early childhood education major interned with the Tennessee program as a teaching fellow, assisting elementary students with reading comprehension, grammar and literacy skills.

“Equal education has always been important to me and has greatly influenced my love for teaching. MTR’s desire to make a difference in the lives of its youth and community is inspiring and humbling,” Olson said of the program.

As a literacy fellow, Olson, of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, worked alongside a team of teachers. Many students came from families of limited financial means, with some experiencing neglect or mistreatment. This impacted their ability to concentrate, to identify and cope with strong emotions, and to thrive in the classroom. In response to this, Olson took a holistic approach to her teaching. She made her classroom a safe space for the children, offering a listening ear, extra help and emotional support. Additionally, she was trained in the science of reading, leadership, social-emotional learning, and community and spiritual development.

Olson’s experience gave her the opportunity to reflect on the importance of equal education, regardless of socioeconomic status, country, race, religion and gender, having worked with children from many diverse backgrounds.

“This internship helped me gain perspective on the systemic issues rooted in education,” Olson said. “Before the initial start date, I had not seen firsthand what it means to live in a large under-resourced urban neighborhood.”

Experiencing what she calls “many successes” in Memphis, Olson watched her students come to class excited to learn. “They showed up each day to grow in their love for learning, and that’s truly heartwarming,” Olson said. “There is something so beautiful about seeing students make progress and become proud of who they are.”

Olson credited her academic advisor Sarah Edwards Moore, associate professor of education, with teaching her what it means to be a culturally responsive teacher and giving her the tools needed to thrive in the classroom. “Dr. Moore’s support and constant words of encouragement have affirmed my decision to go into education,” Olson said.

Upon graduation from Susquehanna University, Olson plans to move back to Tennessee to work with the Teach for America Corps, an organization dedicated to eliminating educational inequality. Corps members teach in one of 52 low-income areas for at least two years. She will work in Nashville as an elementary English language arts teacher.