Majors: Art Education (K-12) and Elementary Education (K-6)
Current Residence: Albany, NY
What are you doing now?
I’ve been teaching at the Free School, a small independent school in Albany, NY for about five years. When I graduated from SJC, I was really excited to continue working with children, but uncertain of what it might look like for me. I could see that education policies and a growing emphasis on standardized testing were drastically changing the way schools function. The Free School is unique in that we allow children the freedom to pursue learning in a personal way. That may include traditional classes, independent or collaborative projects, free play, creative projects and games. We do not follow a standardized curriculum or participate in standardized testing. Instead, the curriculum we offer is driven by what children and their families are asking for. Students choose how to spend their days at school based on what they find important and interesting. We have a strong emphasis on social and emotional development and students actively participate in solving problems and making decisions together.
My co-teachers and I all wear many hats, but I mainly teach art and keep track of the 5th and 6th grade group. I love the unique flexibility of working in this environment, where I can work closely with each individual student with attention to their interests and goals. The students never cease to amaze me with what they accomplish based on their own choosing.
Why did you choose SJC?
I chose SJC after visiting the campus and sitting in on classes for a day. What stood out to me more than anything was the friendly atmosphere and the connections between students and professors. I also loved that education majors have hands-on learning opportunities in local schools in their first semester.
As a student, what was your experience like at SJC?
I had a great experience at SJC. I was able to design my own major. I was able to observe and practice the theory I was learning through my field placements each semester. Education professors worked closely with students and encouraged me to really think about the role of schools and education and who I wanted to be as a teacher. Bonnie Zimmer especially was an amazing advisor and mentor to me. We continue to stay in touch.
How did the Core Program integrate with your major?
The Core program challenged me to examine the ways in which all factors of identity (culture, race, gender, class, abilities, etc.) play into everyone’s interactions. Core helped me to better understand myself and broaden my understanding of other experiences. Anyone involved in education has a crucial responsibility to consider those factors in how schools are structured and how we approach students and families.
What advice would you give to a prospective student?
I think the most important part of my education was being exposed to so many teaching styles and learning environments. There were some great examples and some not-so-great examples that help me to be more thoughtful and intentional in my teaching. I would encourage anyone who is thinking about teaching to spend time observing and working in diverse settings with different teachers and students of all ages.
If you are interested in learning more about alternatives to public education, check out the Free School website www.albanyfreeschool.org and the Alternative Education Resource Organization website www.educationrevolution.org.
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