an e-newsletter for students and alumni of saint michael's biology department

Forth and Back:
Matt Hadjun '05 on the move as a teacher

By Mark Tarnacki




Note: This story originally appeared in the Winter 2009 issue of the Saint Michael's College Magazine.
Rarely has Matt Hajdun’s path been the one offering the best financial or physical security, but as a teacher in challenging environments both at home and abroad since graduation, he has made a difference for children who need him, which makes him happy.

This year, Hajdun ’05, who was a biology and elementary education major, is back among the Saint Michael’s community, where his personal mission of service through teaching evolved. He’s working on a master’s degree in education in the evenings after spending days as a much-loved teacher of fourth and fifth graders at Burlington’s Champlain Elementary School.

As a MOVE volunteer during his undergraduate days, Hajdun worked in India and Costa Rica among the poorest of the poor, and after graduation he taught a year at a Honduran orphanage, and then at an inner-city program in Connecticut for immigrant English-language learners. He returned to Vermont when a job opened at Champlain. The staff at the school really wanted him to return after his experience as a student teacher there in 2005.

“Last year, I was in New Britain, Connecticut, teaching bilingual, low-income, second-language learners,” he said. “Following my student teaching at Champlain, I went to Hinesburg half a year, taught fifth and sixth grade, then from there did a full year in Honduras,” he said. Since he had studied abroad in Costa Rica while a Saint Michael’s student, he knew he wanted to go back to Latin America. “I’m getting close to fluent in Spanish,” he added.

Hajdun worked part-time as MOVE’s assistant director when he was a senior and joined a Christmas break trip to India to join Mother Teresa’s work, which gave him important perspective on life. “That definitely influenced me to go to Honduras later,” he said. “It was eye-opening. After going somewhere for three weeks it’s easy to see all the things that are wrong but not really long enough to do much about it, and I realized I needed to go somewhere for a longer period of time.”

In Honduras he was director of a private K-9 school with 102 students. “Basically I worked at an orphanage, with half our students being from the orphanage and half members of the local community. It was trial by fire.” He taught fifth and sixth grade (in Spanish), trained and supervised teachers and planned school-wide events.

He said immersion in the practice of connecting service to learning while he was a Saint Michael’s student “was a big benefit for me. This community aspect here is really something that I valued and I don’t think you see it much in other spots.

“I think we have one of the best elementary education programs out there,” he said. “My senior year, two departments, biology and education, let me design my own senior research so I could come up with inquiry-based science models, and I still use all of those in my teaching.”

Working on his master’s has kept him involved with the college even more than just by maintaining connections with friends and former professors. “It’s such a supportive community at Saint Michael’s. Even after you leave, if you take advantage of it, there’s such a network of alumni out there,” he said.



Go Back