Whether it be in the operating room or the classroom, Dr. Menen Mathias-Fredericks has dedicated her career to making a difference.
Menen, a Swing substitute teacher, spent many years in the medical field before becoming a K-12 educator. After attending medical school and completing her residency in general surgery, she embarked on a career in research and healthcare education, training and teaching her peers.
“I found that I liked doing it as much as I liked the actual practice of medicine,” Menen says.
Those positive experiences laid the groundwork for Menen to pursue another type of teaching in an area that’s been a lifelong passion: K-12 education.
“The clincher for me was when one of the students told me that she never liked science before I was her substitute teacher,” Menen says. “That, for me, really was quite gratifying. I was so happy that I was able to help — it made a real impact on me.”
Journey to teaching
Menen’s path to substitute teaching and Swing Education started long before her career in healthcare education. She was home-schooled as a child, the result of her family’s concerns about the quality of local schools and commitment to ensuring Menen received the best instruction possible.
That planted the seed for Menen to become a teacher, but she didn’t have to time to fully explore her passion for K-12 education during the first part of her career.
In 2016, however, after taking a step back and doing some reflection, Menen decided to give teaching a shot.
“Substitute teaching was a great way to start because I obviously didn’t have the traditional pathway of a teacher, so I wanted to see how I’d develop a rapport with the students, handle classroom management, and all of that,” she says.
Starting with Swing
Menen started with Swing over the summer. She previously worked for another substitute teacher organization before determining that Swing was a better fit.
“I was looking for an organization that offered more support in areas like professional development and did a better job of matching your skills with certain classes/students,” Menen says.
Menen also appreciates the flexibility she has with Swing. Rather than subbing for only one school or district, she can teach in a wide range of classrooms. Over time, she has found that she is a strong match with one particular school in her area, but she still likes having the option to explore others.
“In the beginning I was with a couple of different schools, but now, since I’ve been with Swing for a while, I’ve increasingly been working with one,” Menen says. “They’ve been able to match me with their math and science classes, and I obviously have that background. Still, I like the fact that I do have the option to work with other schools if I so desire.”
Another positive of Menen’s substitute teaching experience has been the support she’s received — both from Swing and her colleagues.
“The other teachers have been incredibly supportive,” Menen says. “They’re willing to share their materials and strategies and their tips and tricks with me.”
“If I have any questions, I’m able to contact someone at support in Swing and get an answer in a very reasonable amount of time. I have to be honest, I haven’t really experienced any significant difficulties with Swing.”
And while Menen hasn’t quite decided whether she’ll transition from substitute teaching to full-time teaching (she currently splits her time between medicine and K-12 education), she’s already gleaned some valuable insight about succeeding in the classroom.
“The more willing you are to participate with the full-time staff, the better support you’ll get from them,” Menen says. “That’s the approach I use at every school where I sub, and 99 percent of the time I’ve had a warm welcome.”