From student teachers to teachers: AMSTUD duo

From student teachers to teachers: AMSTUD duo

Starting off as student-teachers on campus, American Studies teachers Ashley Harrison and Whitney Schell are now both full-time Redhawks.

Beginning their teaching careers in separate departments, Harrison and Schell have been brought together to co-teach. But they’re not doing it on their own as former mentors are now colleagues.



Ashley Harrison

Two years after being a student teacher, American Studies and AP Language and Composition teacher Ashley Harrison and her mentor, AP Seminar teacher David Volkmar, are teaching right across the hall from each other.

“I was completely nervous the entire day,” Harrison said. “My first day being a student teacher, I didn’t really know what to expect because I heard it really does make or break whether you want to be a teacher.”

Volkmar immediately spotted Harrison’s potential.

“It was apparent to me early on she was a natural born educator, that she was meant to do this. She has had a teacher persona from day one,” Volkmar said. “I’m very proud of her, but I honestly can’t take credit. Most of her ability is innate.”

It was apparent to me early on she was a natural born educator, that she was meant to do this,

— AP Seminar teacher David Volkmar

Junior Addison LeBlanc, who had Harrison as a student teacher her freshman year, saw many of the same qualities. 

“It was really fun because she was very engaging, even as a student teacher,” LeBlanc said. “I’m excited that she’s now an official teacher at Liberty because she’s very engaging, likable,  and understanding.”

After teaching at Wakeland for a year as an English teacher, Harrison returned to campus this year to become one of the school’s American Studies teachers.

“[Student teaching] was the best experience,” Harrison said. “Mr. Volkmar was really sweet and let me kind of take over his class the way I wanted to, and he really helped mentor me and create the teacher I am today.” 

Harrison attributes her teaching expertise, not only to Volkmar, but also to the supporting administration on campus.

“There is a lot of support here on campus, not just with our teams but also administration-wise,” Harrison said. “It’s just a really welcoming place to be. Liberty teaches you how to not only be an effective teacher but be an effective role model for the students because they really do cater to students’ social, emotional, as well as academic needs.”


Whitney Schell

After student teaching under GT Humanities teacher Sarah Wiseman, Whitney Schell taught AP U.S. History and AP Government for a year on campus. After living in Germany for three years, Schell is back on campus to co-teach a new subject class, American Studies.

“Mrs. Wiseman really helped me to know how to give good information to students, like how to present the information that I know because the content is something that I am really familiar with,” Schell said.

Schell and Wiseman’s quick connection enabled Wiseman to step into a mentor role almost immediately. 

“Ms. Wiseman and I got along really well, we did immediately, personality wise, got on, and that was super helpful,” Schell said. “Ms. Wiseman was very friendly but also was able to step into a mentor position, so I felt very comfortable when I didn’t know how to do something or was unsure, I was able to talk something through with her.”

For Wiseman, not only was Schell her mentee, but also a friend.

She’s also just a really really kind being; it’s not a facade, and so it was nice getting a new friend,

— GT Humanities teacher Sarah Wiseman

“I adored having Ms. Schell as my student teacher,” Wiseman said. “She is the kind of person who is always putting her best foot forward. She was always looking to improve and get better. She’s also just a really really kind being; it’s not a facade, and so it was nice getting a new friend.”

The generational gap between Schell and Wiseman provides Wiseman with a sense of responsibility for furthering Schell’s education.

“I kinda like to think about how I’m about the same age difference from Ms. Schell as I am with Ms. Evans, my co-teacher,” Wiseman said. “I feel in a lot of ways Ms. Evans mentors me being kind of one generation ahead, and Ms. Schell is my person to mentor, and I feel a sense of passing it forward.”

But it wasn’t just pure luck that Schell returned to campus. Wiseman had been working her own magic. 

“When [Mrs. Schell] said she was moving back from Germany, I was like, ‘okay we’re gonna have a job opening, you have to get hired, like I want you back here,’” Wiseman said. 

Schell believes her love for both teaching and the campus community brought her back on campus.

“I love the environment, the administration is amazing, the kids at Liberty are excellent, and I feel that all of the other teachers just create a really great place to work,” Schell said. “It’s a place where I can really stretch my creativity in my lesson plans, and there are so many resources that are available.”


Teachers in Tandem

In American Studies, both teachers have to utilize their previous training, but also be able to adapt to the complex curriculum to create a seamlessly blended class between AP Language and AP U.S. History.

Schell’s previous experience in Humanities, another dual subject course, prepared her to teach American Studies. 

“Obviously, it’s new having a co-teacher when teaching AMSTUD,” Schell said. “However, because I was Ms. Wiseman’s student teacher, I’m familiar with the co-teaching aspect because I was observing her humanities class.”

Teaching a class composed of two AP subjects intimidated Harrison at first, but she quickly realized the benefit of learning both subjects together.

We are able to create this blended class that benefits students, which is the most important part,

— Ashley Harrison said

“I really do think that it’s that connection between the two subjects,” Harrison said. “At first, I was like, oh my goodness, AP US History and AP Language, but they blend together so well, and they really do piggyback off of each other, and it’s a blend of the same skills so being able to get that and see the [students] every single day, I feel like it really does make the learning experience better and it’s easier to comprehend.”

Harrison feels fortunate to have another teacher’s perspective while teaching her classes.

“I think it’s that I obviously have my own things that I enjoy, things that I prefer,” Harrison said. “It’s nice having Mrs. Schell’s input and her expertise that she brings to the table because together, we are able to create this blended class that benefits students, which is the most important part.”

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