Katie Vetro graduated in from UMF in 2004. She teaches fifth grade in Buxton, Maine.

Why did you choose to go to UMF?

My choice to go to UMF was an easy one. The elementary education program really appealed to me…. Once I visited the campus, I was even more in love with the college. It was small, inviting, friendly, and relaxed. I didn’t want to be just another face in a big lecture hall. Creating relationships with my professors was important to me, because I really believe that human interactions motivate learning experiences.

Highlight one Honors class you took.

One of my favorite classes was Biotechnology and the Post Human with Paul Outka. This class was a mix of science and science fiction, which I loved because science fiction is one of my favorite genres. We would read books, then explore some of the biotechnology behind the ideas. That year I did a Symposium presentation with a classmate called “The Terminator: Fiction or Reality?” which explored brain-machine interfacing. The science research I studied at this time is now making headlines today (11 years later!) as brain-controlled prosthetics become a greater reality!

Tell us about your thesis.

In my final year at UMF, I wrote my Honors Thesis. I combined ideas from children’s fantasy literature and Bronfenbrenner’s development of a child’s mesosystem. I was interested in exploring the idea that children may be able to learn about important life lessons by living vicariously through a fantasy character’s development, which would allow the child to learn in a safe, risk-free way. Writing this thesis was by far the most difficult task I undertook at UMF, but it was also incredibly rewarding. As a lifelong learner, I loved that I could develop my own ideas and topic, and that I got to spend an entire semester researching, thinking, and writing about it. There is nothing more exciting than pursuing your own interest in learning, and that’s the opportunity the Honors program provided me with when I chose to write my thesis.

Tell us about your teaching career.

Although I went to UMF to get a degree in elementary education, I ended up with a degree in English. I completed my master’s degree in education later, and I now teach fifth grade at Buxton Center Elementary School in Buxton, Maine. Teaching is a challenging job for a lot of reasons, but my most deepest desire is to facilitate a lifelong love of learning, something the Honors program continued to instill in me while I was at UMF. Today, in the spirit of the Honors Thesis, I do a “Genius Project” with my students. Students explore a topic they are deeply interested in, map out their own learning, conduct their research, and choose how they would like to present. Katie Vetro classroomSome of the projects are research-based, while others are creative projects. This year, because I have a student teacher from UMF, she gets to facilitate this process and I get to participate alongside the students!

If you could give a piece of advice to an incoming freshman at UMF, what would it be?

If I could offer an incoming UMF freshman a piece of advice I would say this: pursue whatever makes you happy. I loved UMF and the Honors program for the variety of options it allowed me to explore. Those options allowed me to continue to grow not just as a learner, but as a person.