Education [ej-oo–key-shuhn]: the act or process of imparting or acquiring general knowledge, developing the powers of reasoning and judgment, and generally of preparing oneself or others intellectually for mature life.
Joseph Joubert said, “To teach is to learn twice.”
Our Plattsburgh State Teacher Education graduate students are learning about learning! We’re starting a new summer blog series of student perspectives from the amazing Teacher Education programs that our campus has to offer. We’re excited to shine a spotlight on these dedicated students, to get an insider view on what they found valuable during their time in the program, to impart some advice for new and current students, and to discover what they’re up to now.
James Mahoney: BA/MST Adolescent Education History Concentration (Grades 7-12)
My name is James Mahoney, and I’m starting my last semester of classes in the Fall of 2017, and I’m beginning my student teaching in the Spring of 2018. One of the most notable memories during my experience in the Education program was in my EDR 524 class, Literacy Instruction for the Content Areas. During this class, we were faced with the task of getting to know a student that we had never met and creating a tutoring plan for them over a seven week course. On multiple occasions a teacher-peer and I teamed up to work with our students to practice word study activities. We created a bowling game, where our students would bowl down bowling pins to figure out how many words they could add to our collaborative story. My teacher-peer and I were nervous that our students would co-write a completely disjointed story, however, we were amazed to watch our students come together to collectively write the story. Being able to watch a pair of students, of varying abilities, work together to apply literacy strategies we had been teaching during our tutoring sessions was so rewarding.
Having that “ah ha!” moment with a student reminded me of why teachers do what they do, and why I want to be a teacher.
My advice for new/current Education majors is to get to know your adviser. It really helps to have someone in your corner who knows the program, and that you can go to with any questions or concerns. I also recommend asking questions: to professors, peers, practicing teachers and anyone who has an insight to the field. You’re never going to have all the answers unless you’re willing to ask questions. As teachers, we can’t expect our future students to ask questions and strive to learn more, unless we’re willing to do so ourselves.
Molly Martindale: MST Adolescent Education English Concentration (Grades 7-12)
My name is Molly Martindale and I recently completed my first year in the M.S.T. Adolescent Education program. My expected graduation date is Spring 2018, and I’m excited to start my second year this Fall! What I enjoy most about this program are the many opportunities provided to interact with teachers and students in a middle-school and high-school environment. The most enjoyable part of my time, so far, has been my practicum with a 7th grade ELA teacher at Beekmantown Middle School. Not only was I able to observe an amazing teacher in action, but I was able to create my own lesson plans and receive applicable feedback. Besides the incredible experience, it was so rewarding to just get to know the students during my time in the field. I believe that authentic relationships are essential for positive and effective teachers to connect with their students and understand a student’s strengths, challenges, learning style, and personality.
For new/current students, I recommend jumping in with both feet. By this I mean, don’t be timid, instead, try to take advantage of the time you have in a practicing classroom.
My undergraduate degree wasn’t in Education, so I think that the foundations from the graduate courses are necessary to provide the background information that the profession requires. I also guarantee that you will learn 10x more by being active and willing in the field when you have the opportunity. During my practicum, I watched my cooperating teacher teach a lesson, and the next period she asked me to take over! Of course I was nervous, but I jumped right in, and what I learned within that 40 minutes was astronomical.
Also, go out of your way to substitute teach in local school districts during your school breaks, tutor a student, chaperone a school dance, and pick practicing teachers’ brains: I believe, in this field, you truly learn from interactions in the schools with students and teachers. Standing back and observing is good to a certain extent, but when you’re given the opportunity to teach or be involved, take it!
Breanna Syslo: BS/MS Ed-Special Ed Math Concentration (Birth-Grade 6)
My name is Breanna Syslo, and I graduated in the Spring of 2017. I completed the Special Education BS/MS degree, with a concentration in Math. Right now, I’m currently applying and interviewing for jobs in the field.
A notable memory for me during my time as a undergraduate would be during the BS portion of my program; my cohort was in the middle of class in Sibley Hall, and the Third Age Center or the Daycare had goats outside! We were not paying attention to class at all at this point, so we had a “teachable moment” and went outside and played with the goats.
My advice to new, prospective, or current students in the education field is to remember to have fun during your time in the program!
Also, be sure to speak up if you need more information or want to learn more about a topic. Let your professors know what interests you. This is not only your education, but your future career. I also recommend joining Kappa Delta Pi! It’s the Education Honor Society, and the group offers a great network of other future teachers (or current teachers!) for members to connect with.
Parker Carpenter: BA/MST Adolescent Education English Concentration (Grades 7-12)
My name is Parker Carpenter and I graduated from the BA/MST program back in December. Since then, I have been working as a certified substitute in the Plattsburgh City School District. From May to June this past year, I worked as a long-term substitute for a special education teacher who left on maternity leave. It was nice to be able to work with the same students in the same room each day.
Two fun things I did while in the Education program involved making videos for projects with my friends, and going on a school-related trip to Seattle to present a research paper that I had completed with a partner. Being able to complete fun projects with my friends, even those not in the Education program, was definitely a highlight of my experience and something I plan to continue in my own classroom. Additionally, travelling to Seattle with my research partner and some of my classmates from the Educational Research class, was an amazing opportunity. I had never been to the West Coast, and to go there to present in front of other teachers from across the country was life-changing. Before that trip, I was something of a homebody, but since then, all I want to do is travel.
My advice for new and/or current Education students would be to develop a strong work ethic while you’re still in classes. Figure out how to stop yourself from procrastinating. Even though I’m not a salaried teacher, while I was working as a long-term sub I was in charge of that teacher’s regular duties. I had a ton of work to do daily, from emailing parents to gathering resources for students who had missed class, and entering grades. Because I was in a resource room, I didn’t have to create lesson plans. If I would’ve needed to plan out entire lessons, on top of doing all of those extra jobs, I’m sure I would have drowned in work.
I suggest developing a good work ethic now, because you will need one later, and once you’re working, a poor work ethic doesn’t result in bad grades, but rather, could result in a lost job, or reprimands from administrators.
You should also take advantage of as many opportunities as possible. For example if you get the chance to travel to present research, do it! If someone offers to let you do practice interviews with local principals, sign up for as many as you can! Take advantage of these opportunities.
Melanie Taylor: BA/MST Adolescent Education English Concentration (Grades 7-12)
My name is Melanie Taylor and I started as a journalism major at SUNY Plattsburgh. But, I soon discovered that I didn’t enjoy that kind of writing, so I switched my undergraduate major to English. I then decided I really wanted to help people understand themselves and the world through literature and writing, so I entered the five year BA/MST program with an English concentration.
I am about to student teach in September, and I’m very excited! This is the part of my education that I have been looking forward to the most. I will be moving home to student teach in the Capital Region/southern Saratoga county. I love this part of NYS, and growing up in that community has benefited me so much that I’m honored to return the favor in this small way. I’m also excited to see what else I can learn about the field from the teachers that I will be working with.
The curriculum class (EDU 5109) solidified my passion for teaching and had the single greatest impact on me and my future teaching career. In that course, we did a four week placement at Beekmantown high school with a cooperating teacher. I worked in an 11th grade classroom, and I had the opportunity to teach, collaborate, encourage, and praise ELA students. I got to know each student on a one-on-one basis, which involved learning about what interests them and what they aspire to do with their lives after high school. I found that as students became more comfortable with me, they began to follow their curiosities and ask more questions within the subject. Even more rewarding than that, was when one student would use the information I gave them to aid another student.
It was incredibly fulfilling to see someone that I had helped then use that knowledge to pay it forward and help another person.
SUNY Plattsburgh has a really unique collection of faculty. My advice to students is to reach out to professors, because they are there to help you. It’s important to get to know your professors and the experiences they’ve had as an educators. It’s also essential to find a professor that you trust, that can assist you in times of need. Some of the most pivotal points in my college career have come from talking to my professors.
In addition to that, Education majors have such great opportunities to experience the field they will be working in. Consider experiences on campus that will help enhance your leadership skills; leadership is the backbone of teaching, which I believe can be more important than any content knowledge you will learn. Get involved on campus and find leadership positions to practice connecting with people. This type of experience could come from tutoring, joining a club, a Greek life organization, or an honor society. These experiences, coupled with the words of wisdom you receive from faculty, will prepare you for any challenges that may come later on.