Claire Reardon (SFS’17) combines passion for education with international development

Clarie Reardon

Claire Reardon (SFS’17) getting a new hair style, complete with flowers, from two of her students in Panama.

December 7, 2016 by Margaux Fontaine

SFS senior Claire Reardon knew she wanted to study international affairs after she participated in an exchange program called Sister Cities, spending part of a summer in Spain while she was in high school. She went on to get an internship with her town’s branch of the program, where she helped to set up a partnership with Haiti. This experience led her to “the obvious choice” for international affairs – Georgetown’s Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Over the course of her freshman year at Georgetown, Reardon began to hone her interests. She took part in Jumpstart, an early childhood literacy program, which sparked her interest in early childhood education.

“I became interested in the field through my work with Jumpstart,” she says. “It was definitely not something I had thought about before college, but I loved the work I did so much that I decided to pursue it academically as well.”

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Reardon at an on-campus Jumpstart volunteer event.

Combining her interests in education and international development, Reardon decided to major in Culture and Politics with a focus on Inequality in Education. Through her studies, she has been able to look at the intersection of these two fields.

“One major intersection is that the U.S. has a lot to learn from other countries, like France and Sweden, about how to provide effective early childhood education,” she says.

“The SFS has taught me to think critically about how models from other countries can be applied in the U.S.”

She also sees the importance of early intervention, a more effective way of helping students succeed, as having broad implications for international development.

“Countries with struggling school systems could look into offering early childhood education as a way to improve their students’ outcomes,” Reardon says.

One professor at Georgetown who has had a particular impact on her is Kate Chandler.

“I have taken two classes with her and am now her research assistant,” Reardon says. “She has challenged the way I think, and I bring insights from her classes into almost every other class I’ve taken here!”

Her favorite class that she’s taken is Women and the Law with Professor Sara Collina.

“I feel like many of my professors take ‘Cura Personalis’ seriously and really help me develop as a student,” Reardon says.

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Reardon with her roommate and DPE sister Kathleen Reilly (SFS’17) carving pumpkins in Alumni Square.

Early childhood education might not be traditionally associated with the SFS. Nonetheless, Reardon demonstrates how the SFS, particularly the CULP major, is adaptable to a whole range of interests. She also stressed seizing opportunities outside the classroom to bolster her studies.

“The most valuable thing I did to further my career goals was to get work experience in the field rather than relying just on my classes to teach me about education,” she says.

On campus, Reardon is the COO of the Hilltop Microfinance Initiative. She is a member of DPE, the professional foreign service sorority, and was an ESCAPE leader during her sophomore year. Off campus, she spends a few hours every week as a classroom assistant in a D.C. community center preschool program.

“It’s a lot of fun and a great way to see what it’s like to work as a preschool teacher and the different challenges that students in D.C. face,” Reardon says.

Another valuable experience for Reardon was the summer she spent in Panama teaching English at a rural elementary school in 2015. She lived with a host family and taught pre-k through 6th grade.

“It was definitely a challenging experience to be so far from home in such a different environment, because it was harder to keep in touch with my friends at home,” she says. “However, the experience helped me grow a lot and also helped me realize that I probably shouldn’t join the Peace Corps.”

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Reardon in Medellin, Colombia.

She had a much different experience the following summer, which she spent in the city of Bogota, Colombia, living with two other Georgetown students. There, she spent a lot of time working on a documentary about the role women play in building peace in their communities.

“It was an amazing time to be in Colombia because it was during the final peace negotiations between the government and the FARC, a guerrilla group,” Reardon says.

Now in her senior year, Reardon will be teaching preschool in Indianapolis with Teach for America following graduation. Beyond that, she would like to stay in the the field of education, but is not entirely decided yet.

“No matter what, my studies in the SFS have taught me to think critically and communicate effectively, so I’m sure I’ll use those skills in whatever field I end up in.”