Only four years out of college, Victoria Berndt has shown a dedication to her High School students and her profession that’s more typical of seasoned veterans. Then again, Ms. Berndt has known that she’s wanted to teach since she was a freshman at Mentor High School. And that self-awareness has guided her to explore and follow her curiosity to teaching opportunities that broaden her perspective.
Ms. Berndt joined the High School faculty full-time this year, though she served as a long-term sub in 2015 and 2016 and was hired as a part-time teacher for the 2016-17 academic year. In that time, she’s taught freshman and sophomore Core English, 10 team, 11 team, government, financial literacy and African American history.
What was it that made you want to become a teacher?
I remember sitting in my ninth grade US history class and I just knew that I wanted to teach. But it wasn’t until I was student teaching and working in a full inclusion classroom that I realized that I have a knack for relating to students and creating strong relationships with them.
What were your first impressions of teaching at an IB district?
When I first came, I didn’t quite understand IB. I thought I knew what it was, but it wasn’t until I started to practice it and understand what it really meant that I really thought it was exciting. I was familiar with the learner profile, but then you realize that you have to practice what you preach. Even last year, I noticed in my own teaching style that I took more risks. For example, I offered to be a chaperone on a Model UN trip to Georgetown and that opened the door for me to be an advisor for Model UN. And as far as the students go, I see them wanting to know how they can change the world and how they can change the community.
What’s been your favorite part of teaching at Shaker?
I think it’s the community that we create in each classroom. I’ve found that the students are just as dedicated as we are to having a positive learning experience. If you support them, they support you and then they support one another to create that community. Students are open-minded and they want to know more about you. That’s what enables teachers to connect with them. And that’s what enables the students to engage more. Where I grew up, it wasn’t as diverse as it is here. So I was looking for something that changed the way I looked at the world and that’s exactly what Shaker has done for me.
You’ve also taught in the Summer Academy. What was that experience like?
It was so much fun. This past summer, I taught 10th grade English. But the students also learned how to play chess and they created a music video. Really, it was amazing what our cohort accomplished.
What are your long-term goals?
I want to do some work that allows me to bring more of my skills or counseling skills to the students so that I can support them even more in the classroom. I just want to give them whatever support they need. And if I can’t provide that, I’ll figure out a way to make it happen for them.