If basketball has taught Vandy Pullen anything, it’s how to be a better team player, both on and off the hardwood.
“Basketball has made me a disciplined person,” said Pullen, who graduated in December and is in her final season on the RU women’s hoops team. “The sport has taught me how to be a team player and how to work with different people in different situations. This is important because I want to be a teacher, and will have to work with many people.”
Those lessons also came in handy for Pullen last summer when she joined other students and educators from RU’s College of Education and Human Development on a study abroad trip to Malawi in southeast Africa. There, Pullen taught math and science to a sixth grade class with kids ranging in ages from 11 to 15. Teaching in Malawi was Pullen’s first time in front of a classroom full of students.
“I was nervous about teaching,” said Pullen, who is now pursuing a master’s degree at RU. “I had not done any student teaching here in the U.S. yet, and here I was going to another county where students spoke another language. I was very nervous to teach, but the more I did it, and the more students got to know me, the easier it was. I began to feel comfortable.”
Pullen worked with a teacher in Malawi who translated Pullen’s words to the students and encouraged her to speak slower. “If I were explaining things too quickly, he would let me know,” Pullen said of her helper. “On the days he was not in class with me, I would just have to figure things out. I would ask a student to help me if he or she understood what I was trying to explain. Because I worked with sixth grade students, they knew English pretty well so this was not a major issue.”
Teaching in Malawi proved to be an invaluable experience for Pullen. She said she always dreamed of being a teacher -- she used to play school with her dolls in her bedroom when she was younger -- and her experience with sixth graders in Malawi persuaded her to become a middle school teacher.
“I want to work with students and make a difference in their lives,” Pullen said. “RU is preparing me with a great education. The teacher program here is excellent, and the people here are wonderful. The friendships I have made will last a lifetime. “