Thursday, December 12, 2019

By Jess Hawkins

It was Andrew Bloom’s experience teaching English as a foreign language in Morocco that first inspired him to pursue teaching as a career.

Bloom, who will graduate with a Master of Arts in Teaching Social Studies Education this December, will be the student speaker for the December 2019 College of Education Commencement. The commencement ceremony will take place on Thursday, Dec. 19, at 4 p.m in Hancher Auditorium.

Bloom traveled to Fes, Morocco, as part of the “Arabic Language and Culture” program in the Fall of 2014 after receiving a Presidential Scholarship. During his three-month study abroad experience, Bloom studied Morrocan dialect, history, and culture. While studying in Morocco, Bloom was inspired by his friends to voluntarily teach English at a boy’s home close to where he lived.

"I'd taught swim lessons for years before heading to Morocco, so getting to teach felt a bit like visiting home. But I still thought Arabic translation and interpretation was what I wanted to do," says Bloom.

After completing the study abroad program and graduating early from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a B.A. in International Studies in December of 2014, Bloom returned to Morocco in January of 2015 for an independent study. He enrolled as a full-time Arabic language student and spent five months learning the language and exploring different Moroccan cities.

“My study abroad experience completely changed my perspective on the world, and I have the UI to thank for that,” says Bloom.

Once back in the U.S, Bloom tried working in a variety of different career fields before realizing that his true passion was teaching.

“It wasn’t until I came home and started working in finance that I realized I was much better suited for and happier when I was teaching,” he says.

Once Bloom realized his passion, he decided to come back to the University of Iowa to study at the College of Education.

“I told myself that I wouldn’t enroll in a master’s program until it corresponded directly with a career,” says Bloom. “I came back to the University of Iowa to complete a B.A. in Education, but Dr. Greg Hamot convinced me that it was worth it to put in the extra two semesters to earn a master’s. That was worth it to me and, looking back, it was definitely the right decision.”

Bloom also credits the mentorship that he has received from his advisors as hallmarks to his success as a student and as a teacher.

“UI has so many professors who are not only experts in their field but amazingly friendly and genuine people,” says Bloom.  “I had the constant support of and opportunities to learn from my advisers Karmen Berger and Greg Hamot, who each helped me, a student with no professional experience in their fields, figure out how to make something special and useful out of my time here.”

The personal relationships created within the college had a profound, positive impact on Bloom’s learning.

“Dr. Hamot consistently helped me adapt and succeed in my teaching experiences – as a practicum student, a teaching assistant, and a student teacher, and I am so thankful for that.”

Besides being a student, Bloom was involved in a variety of different activities on campus.

“My favorite thing here was getting to be a teaching assistant for the anthropology department, and getting to be a graduate assistant for the social studies professors,” says Bloom. “I wouldn’t have been half the teacher that I am today without all of those experiences, so I’m thankful for them,” he says.

Bloom also worked with the University of Iowa Center for Human Rights (UICHR) as an intern and later as an employee, and was also a member of the Running Club.

“The folks at the center were great mentors, and I got to meet some amazing people from all over the country being involved with UICHR,” he says.

After graduating from the College of Education, Bloom will work as a substitute teacher in his home town of Cedar Rapids while he applies for a full-time position.

Reflecting on his time at the University of Iowa, he credits the faculty and staff for giving him the confidence to pursue his passion and seize new opportunities.

“I was a shy kid who never would've traveled the world or tried to get a master's without meeting people who convinced me it was possible,” says Bloom.  “I got a lot of that hope and optimism from UI, and that's carried me forward ever since.”

Bloom’s advice for incoming or current students is to gain real-world experiences.

“I thought grades were enough as an undergraduate, but let me be proof of this:  A 4.0 GPA never opened as many doors for me as networking,” he says. “Get out and meet people, go to public events, apply for everything, and join some extracurriculars.”