Student Profile: Olivia Thompson cherishes the small moments in the classroom

Monday, October 18, 2021
Olivia Thompson

Olivia Thompson is studying to earn her credential in Single Subject History and achieve a Master of Education degree in the Teacher Education Program. No stranger to UCSB, Olivia earned her undergraduate degree from the university in Archaeological Anthropology, with minors in Education and Museum Studies, graduating in 2021. Olivia focused intensely on her academics, graduating from UCSB in three years with the honor of being a Summa Cum Laude graduate. During her undergraduate career, Olivia worked for the education department at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA), sparking her love for working with kids. She aspires to become a middle school History teacher, as Olivia has spent her life captivated by the social sciences and hopes to nurture that same passion in her own students someday. Olivia believes that good teachers can make the utmost difference in the lives, confidence, and goals of students, which is the foundational belief that led her to pursue teaching.

GGSE: How did your work at the SBMA prepare you for wanting to become a teacher?

Thompson: During my time at the SBMA, I was lucky enough to find an amazing mentor in Patsy Hicks, the museum’s Director of Education. Patsy had been an English teacher for many years before entering the museum field, and she truly infused her love of teaching into every aspect of her work. As I watched her interact with the kids, I began to see their eyes light up with curiosity as a result of her words. Witnessing those moments quickly made me realize that I had found a profession that brought joy to students and educators alike, which encouraged me to begin building my own educational skills. However, in museum education, I could only work with school groups for a very limited amount of time. I wanted to build stronger bonds with students and help them grow over time, a desire which ultimately led me to enter the TEP program to become a history teacher.

GGSE: Tell us about a memorable moment or two from your first few months in TEP.

Thompson: Many of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in TEP are the silly, random, and heartwarming interactions I’m able to have with my students. During my first week of student-teaching at La Colina Junior High, I briefly mentioned that I really love the Jurassic Park movies and dinosaur-related things. I can’t even remember why this came up in the first place, but apparently a few of the students took note of it. At the end of class, I noticed one student quietly lingering behind. She had such a proud smile on her face as she handed me a little cartoon drawing of a brontosaurus riding a skateboard. I’ve had that drawing tucked into my ID badge ever since. Those moments, small as they seem, mean the world to me as a teacher.

GGSE: What captivates you most about the social sciences?

Thompson: The reason I love the social sciences is actually the very same reason why I am drawn to teaching. I find so much fulfillment in connecting to people’s stories, especially learning about how the past has shaped both individuals and humanity as a whole. As a history teacher, I am able to learn from my students’ unique life experiences, while also giving them knowledge about the world. We have unique insight into how younger generations shape and engage in society, as well as some small influence over how they make sense of their own place in history. I feel very lucky to have found a career that allows me to pursue this passion in a relevant way that I find so deeply meaningful.

GGSE: Has there been a teacher in your life who made a big difference for you, and in what ways can you model from that?

Thompson: When I think of what it means to be a good teacher, there is one face that comes rushing to my mind every time: Ms. Taylor, my 7th and 8th grade English teacher. Up until middle school, it was rare for a teacher to hear me say more than a handful of words throughout the school year. I struggled with anxiety, and though I always enjoyed school, I felt very uncomfortable when interacting and participating in class. However, my voice really shined through my writing. Ms. Taylor noticed this and showed me so much compassion as she swiftly took me under her wing. She saw my strengths, validated me, and I grew into a much stronger and self-assured individual as a result of her presence in my life. I owe her so much for that. As I transition from the role of student into the role of teacher, I often consider how she managed to help me find so much confidence in myself, and whether she even realized what an impact she was making through her support. Looking out over the small sea of young faces looking up at me, I constantly question how I can show that same degree of support to every single one of them. Sometimes it can feel a bit impossible, but I always think back to the kid I was before stepping into Ms. Taylor’s classroom compared to who I was when I left. I endeavor to have each of my students walk out of my class with that same belief in themselves and feeling of endless support from their teacher. That’s what every student deserves.