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Sean Mumford returned to the school district he attended when he was younger and is now a 4th-grade teacher at Momauguin Elementary School. (Photo courtesy of Momauguin Elementary School )
Though he didn’t take a direct path to get there, Sean Mumford is excited to be a 4th-grade teacher at Momauguin Elementary School. He not only followed in the footsteps of other family members—his mother and his aunt are both teachers—but he returned to the district where he grew up and attended school.
“For a long time I didn’t know what I wanted to do, but teaching runs in my family and it was always something people thought I’d grow up to do,” says Sean. “I went to college for a different undergraduate program and didn’t love the field and then couldn’t find a job.”
While going to college, Sean got a job in retail and even though he worked his way up to a management position and was making a good living, he wasn’t satisfied with his work. He began to reconsider teaching and decided to enroll in an accelerated master’s program at University of Bridgeport.
“I kept coming back to thinking about teaching and though I moved up in the company I was working with, I kept thinking, ‘This isn’t a career,’ and I reached a breaking point,” says Sean. “I worked my tail off in a 1 ½-year program. I interned in a school full-time, took night classes at night, worked retail part-time. It was a tough year, but it was worth it.”
Sean spent a short time working in a different district before realizing the position wasn’t a great fit. Again, he returned to his roots, looking for jobs in districts with which he was familiar and towns in which he had lived, including East Haven, North Haven, and Hamden, where he now lives.
“I was drawn back to that East Haven and fate took over and brought me back,” says Sean. “Part of what was eating away at me in my previous job was I felt like I wasn’t making a difference in the world. I wanted a career that would have some impact. I now have that platform to be able to make a difference in the lives of students and families.”
Sean was hired in January 2020 as a math and science teacher for 4th grade, taking over classes in the middle of a school year. He wasn’t the only new face for his group of students, though, as their other team teacher was out on maternity leave so there was a permanent substitute.
After two months of getting to know students and their learning styles and adjusting to his new position, Sean faced a new challenge when COVID disrupted everything. He now had to continue to cultivate his new bond with students virtually.
“Coming in in January, these students had two brand-new teachers, so there were those challenges and then going away in March, I was still a new face so switching to online brought more challenges,” says Sean. “It was tough to engage with them online, but we made it work.”
Coming into this school year, the flow of the day was adjusted. With students returning full-time, the focus was on maintaining social distancing and reducing movement throughout the day. Sean and his colleagues no longer focus on specific subjects, but instead teach their classroom all subjects in their classroom throughout the day.
Despite the challenges of running a classroom during COVID, Sean is enjoying the new school year. The change in the schedule has been a welcome one for Sean, as he has always enjoyed reading and writing.
“I’ve always been a linguist and enjoyed reading and writing and I really enjoy incorporating the subjects into each other throughout the day,” says Sean. “We’ll write about a scientist during language arts and go back to that scientist later in the day during the science lesson.”
Sean also loves incorporating his other interests into the classroom. Describing himself as an “artsy type,” he enjoys drawing, painting, and music—he has played the guitar since 6th grade.
He and the other teachers and paraprofessionals on the 4th-grade team recently created a Dia de los Muertos bulletin board in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, which is Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.
“We had a lot of fun with the bulletin board and we did a lesson with the students about Dia de los Muertos, what it means, and how it is a happy day that you’re celebrating the lives of people,” says Sean. “It was a cool cultural lesson and gave the kids a chance to get creative. Since the pictures was taken, we’ve put up more. They really enjoyed doing it.”
Sean and his partner teachers, Julie Hurley and Sara Rubin, along with paraprofessional Jennie Furtak, created the bulletin board and students decorated sugar skulls and pumpkins. He notes that all of the teachers on his 4th-grade team are new to the grade with one being a first-year teacher and the other coming from 5th grade.
“This is the first time we’ve worked together and I love the teachers and paraprofessionals I work with,” says Sean. “We’re always bouncing ideas off each other. We have a blast together and we work really well together.”
Incorporating art into the classroom goes beyond being creative for Sean. He stresses the importance of mindfulness to his students and finds that adult coloring pages are a great tool to focus one’s mind. He also uses background music to help his students focus their minds. Sean practices mindfulness in his own life through his music and artwork, as well as journaling.
“With some calm quiet music, they settle down and listen to music while doing work,” says Sean, who also enjoys staying active by going to the gym, running, and rowing. “We try to have practices in mindfulness to keep thoughts at bay while doing work.
“I’m a firm believer in mindfulness and it’s something they can use their entire life,” he continues. “I’ve always observed mindfulness myself and as I got into teaching, I realized it was such a big thing in the community.”
Though it was hard work to get to his own classroom and there have been challenges since he has become a teacher, Sean feels that he has found the career he was looking for. He loves working with students and looks forward to doing so for years to come.
“My goal was to get my own classroom and have my name on the wall and now that I’m in that position, I don’t feel like I’m going to change that anytime soon,” says Sean. “I like to be in the middle of it, elbow deep in the learning, talking to the kids, and helping them learn the things they need to learn. I’m finally in a difference-making job, making an impact on these kids’ lives.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .