Five alumni with decades of combined experience in education shared career advice with students Nov. 14 during the second "Sundays with Alumni" series of the 2010-11 year.
Grads from different disciplines in the field of education -- elementary, middle school, higher education, independent consulting and professional development -- discussed their experiences at Connecticut College and beyond.
They had these suggestions for aspiring educators:
• Find every way you can to get practical experience working with children. Mike Anderson '93 taught swimming lessons at the YMCA, volunteered in New London public schools, taught at summer camp and babysat during his time in college. “By the time I’d hit my first year teaching, I’d already logged about 7,000 hours working with children,” he said.
• Join a club or sports team to learn about community and how to replicate it in the classroom.
• Study abroad. “It’s very important that you experience something outside of what you are doing on campus here,” Andrew Poole '01 recommended.
• Take classes in other disciplines with professors who will really challenge you. “Deliberately try to see education in ways you never did before,” said Tammie Clayton Reid '01.
• “Get involved in community service or volunteer work,” said Natalie Mello '84. Her experiences in college included art therapy with men convicted of forensics crimes, and art projects with a young woman who had Down’s Syndrome.
• Wean yourself from your parents. Consult them when you need to, but now is the time to start solving problems on your own.
• Market yourself in the job search and network with as many people in education as you can. “My mantra senior year was, 'Whatever it takes.' If your mother’s sister’s best friend’s uncle is a superintendent, talk to that person,” said Daniel O'Keefe '09.
The series, sponsored by the Office of College Advancement, helps students network and get career advice from alumni. Also in the 2010-11 series are: research (Feb. 13), politics (March 6) and languages (April 3).
Mike Anderson '93
Anderson majored in child development. His first job was as an elementary school teacher in East Lyme, where he student taught during his college career. He eventually transitioned from elementary teaching to professional development, promoting the “Responsive Classroom” approach through workshops and consultations with teachers.
“The swim team was probably my most significant experience at Conn outside of my education experience. The sense of community I gained from being on the team greatly impacted the way I want students to feel in the classroom today,” Anderson said.
Tammie Clayton Reid '01
Reid had a self-designed a major (“Faith and Education: Vehicles for Social Change”). She gained a unique interdisciplinary perspective on education through her major and through work at The Williams School and on the Board of Education in New London. Today, she is an independent consultant focusing on school development and on encouraging parents to be more involved in their children’s education.
“Self-designing my major helped me look at education through varying frameworks. I think I left Conn feeling really prepared to see education from the people perspective and the policy perspective,” Reid said.
Daniel O'Keefe '09
O’Keefe, the most recent graduate, majored in history and is now a social studies teacher in the public school system in New Jersey. After getting the job, he was immediately tasked with redrafting the 6th and 7th grade curriculum for his district in order to align them with new state standards. He attributes his success to his experience in the classroom at Connecticut College.
"Student teaching is enormously instructive because it not only gives you the chance to put into action what you’ve been thinking about, but it obviously helps you learn things yourself.”
Natalie Mello '84
Mello graduated with a degree in art and no intention of pursuing a career in education. Her work teaching English as a Second Language (ESL) in the Peace Corps developed her interest in education and led her to pursue a graduate certificate in ESL as well as a master’s degree. Today she is the Director of Global Operations at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, where she works with international education, specifically study abroad.
Andrew Poole ’01
Poole graduated a government major and began working with Sports for Kids, a program in California that provides athletic programs to schools serving low-income families. Inspired by this work, Poole pursued his teaching certification and today serves as the academic dean of the Elm City College Preparatory School in New Haven. He primarily oversees curriculum, conducts assessments and researches professional development at the charter school.
“I learned how to manage, coach, listen and ask questions as the captain of the track team at Conn," he said. "The experiences I got from interacting and eventually leading others has helped me today."
-- Meredith Boyle '13