MAT graduate Rachel Preyss will soon find out.

Preyss says she’d prefer to teach 8th or 9th grade because older students “get a little more full of themselves and they know it all.” Photo by Lynne DeLade ’12
Preyss says she’d prefer to teach 8th or 9th grade because older students “get a little more full of themselves and they know it all.” Photo by Lynne DeLade ’12

Rachel Preyss G’13 is Drew’s third Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) student to win the New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher Award in the last three years. It’s an honor that goes to 15 top student teachers in the state. Ideally, she wants to teach 8th or 9th grade Social Studies. Recently, she sat down with Ted Johnsen to discuss the award, her time at Drew and what makes her so great.

Why did you want to become a teacher?
I’m a nerd. I love learning and being a student. My sister is a teacher, and when I would talk to her about her job, I realized you really are a student every day.

You’re from Ohio. Went to undergraduate school at Emory University in Atlanta. Moved to New Jersey to be near family. Why Drew’s MAT program?
What stood out for me about Drew was that they offer suburban and urban field experience. I grew up in a very homogenous suburban setting and so I wanted that different feel.

You student taught at Morristown High School. Any horror stories?
Surprisingly no. I had a great cooperating teacher and was lucky enough to teach a lot of honors and AP classes, so the students were well-behaved.

Come on… The first day?? Nothing?
[Laughs.] I had professors who prepared me and a cooperating teacher who made it so easy. I got lucky.

Was there a moment when you said, “Aha, this is why I want to be a teacher”?
Fall semester we worked at a middle school in Newark. We were teaching them how to read primary sources, something they knew nothing about. First few lessons they didn’t have a clue what was going on, but by lesson five, something clicked. It was an awesome experience.

MAT Director Stephanie Koprowski-McGowan said you were unanimously chosen by the faculty to be one of Drew’s three nominees for the New Jersey Distinguished Student Teacher Award. What did that mean to you?
I’m more comfortable as a student and not as a teacher yet, so that actually boosted my confidence in the classroom.

Did you think had a chance of winning?
Not at all. I was working with an experienced teacher and he was so fluid and so natural that it made me feel like a terrible teacher! [Laughs.]

Do you walk around telling people about how you’re the greatest student teacher ever?
No. This award is for Drew and for my cooperating teacher, because I wouldn’t have been able to do anything without them.

Ok, because I would be telling everyone… In this latest cohort of MAT grads, 10 of 13 already have jobs. Some even fought off multiple offers (rough, right?). You’re back in Ohio and will start applying for jobs at the end of July. Are you nervous?
Not really. Drew has a great reputation so I should be fine.