Alumna's Career Path Leads Back to Old Classroom as New Teacher
Feb. 17, 2017
Caitlin Maxwell BA'15
UT Dallas alumna Caitlin Maxwell had fond memories and longtime friendships from attending elementary school at St. Elizabeth of Hungary Catholic School in Dallas.
It was no surprise, then, that her former school came to mind when she pursued a teaching position after earning her sociology degree in 2015 and completing an alternative teaching certification program.
As luck would have it, her old principal, Rachel Dzurilla, was still in charge at St. Elizabeth’s and told Maxwell she’d be welcome to work there anytime.
Maxwell, now 24, is teaching first grade in the same classroom where she began her early academic career. She teaches all subjects from math to religion, but her favorites are science and reading.
“Teaching someone to read is so exciting,” Maxwell said. “And first-graders are super funny. You can have so much silly fun with them, which I love.”
Maxwell didn’t initially plan on being a teacher. When she transferred her sophomore year from UT Austin, she chose to major in sociology at UT Dallas.
It was after Dr. Carol Cirulli Lanham, a senior lecturer in sociology, recommended her for an internship at Thomas Edison Middle School in Dallas that Maxwell realized she loved teaching.
Lanham, who is also assistant dean of undergraduate studies for the School of Economic, Political and Policy Sciences, said Maxwell was an outstanding mentor to students during her internship and even went on home visits on occasion.
“For Cait, it was a new experience being in an urban school setting, since she had attended private schools growing up, but she excelled,” Lanham said. “I admired her dedication and perseverance in the face of obstacles, and had no doubt she would make a good teacher.”
Maxwell said she found a supportive community at UT Dallas, both from faculty and students.
“I made really great connections with teachers, and everyone was so friendly. There are no cliques among students. Everyone just hangs out together,” Maxwell said.
As she moved into her professional career, Maxwell said it was intimidating at first to work alongside teachers whom she looked up to as a child. Now it’s just comfortable.
“My old teachers help me out, and I know the old routine. It’s an environment where I’m learning, but I can ask questions,” she said.
Some habits are hard to break, she said. Among her colleagues is one of her former teachers, Susan Johnson, who still teaches middle school English.
“I still call her Mrs. Johnson,” Maxwell said with a laugh. “That’s how I knew her growing up, and I can’t help it.”