This is an archived article. For the latest news, go to the Advance Homepage
For more archives, go to the Advance Archive/Search Page.


  May 12, 2003

Future Teacher Turned On
To History By Special Project

The University may be close to home to senior class representative Alysson Olsen, an East Hartford native, but this 21-year-old education major has a world view of events.

"I could never decide between English or history as a major," says Olsen, whose father Mark is a high school English and journalism teacher. Her mother Joan is a middle school technology teaching assistant.

Class of '03
Image: Alysson Olsen

Alysson Olsen

Photo by Melissa Arbo

"I finally settled on history over English because I was more interested in learning and teaching the stories of the past," she says.

Olsen will deliver brief remarks during the May 17 afternoon graduation ceremonies as one of two senior class representatives. The senior class representatives are recommended by the Honors Program.

An honors scholar, University Scholar, and Babbidge Scholar, Olsen was the recipient of a Chancellor's Scholarship, after graduating in 1999 as East Hartford High School's class valedictorian.

Olsen says there were three reasons she came to UConn: the University is close to home, it is financially appealing, and it enjoys a great reputation in teacher job placements.

She says the University has greatly broadened her perspective on life.

"I've met so many people from different backgrounds that I feel I'll be able to be more tolerant of others and to better deal with life's circumstances," she says.

"I also thought I would never find better friends than the ones I had in high school, but at UConn I found great friends, too."

During the spring semester, Olsen has been adjusting to eighth-grade classroom life as a student teacher at the Mansfield Middle School. She's had the opportunity to plan a teaching unit on the Civil War and to teach the unit as well.

"The experience has made me think about my own life as an eighth grader and how much things have changed already," says Olsen. "The students have their own perspectives on life, particularly fashion."

For Olsen, student teaching has been an "A-plus" experience: "I like the energy you get from the students when you share history with them and they, in turn, get excited about the activities you've planned."

Olsen, who plans to teach history, became intrigued by world events in 1919 after writing about the year for a University Scholar project.

"There were so many things happening in the world at this time," she said. "World War I had just come to an end and the Russian Revolution was raising anxieties everywhere. In America, Prohibition began, the right of women to vote was being debated in Congress, and there were constant workers' strikes."

Olsen will continue a fifth year of studies at UConn to complete a master's in education and then hopes to land a teaching position in Connecticut.

But for now, there are two UConn graduations to celebrate.

Olsen's brother, Joshua, also graduates in May with a doctor of pharmacy degree from UConn.