As the Director of Student Engagement for The School of Education at St. John’s University, it is my job to engage my students outside of the classroom, to make them understand how their course work, student teaching experience, observation hours, and tutoring sessions directly correlates to their upcoming career in the ‘real world’ of education. However, with the hustle and flow of NYC life, and just life as a college student in general, it sometimes seems impossible to get our students to stop and reflect on how their presence student teaching, tutoring a student, or even observing in a classroom affects that community. And this goes beyond just our students; this goes for anyone and everyone working within the field of education- including myself!
However, going the extra mile, even if you don’t think it’s that significant, really can ignite a passion in not only your student’s lives, but fellow colleagues as well, and enhance the school community at large. One such example would be Jennifer, one of our current students, who is a 5 year B.S. /M.S. Adolescent Education Major with a Social Studies Concentration, whose volunteer experiences early on in her educational career led to her subsequent student teaching placement and excellent rapport with administration and teachers alike. During the spring semester of her junior year, a St. John’s Education Professor asked for volunteers for a project she was working on with a recent graduate and current teacher. The new project, entitled ‘History Hunters,’ was a program she developed to help middle school students in underprivileged communities discover their love of American History. The students would choose a topic of their choice, learn how to research and analyze primary/secondary sources to develop a thesis, and present their findings to their peers; with the hopes of eventually presenting at the prestigious National History Day competition in New York City. Jennifer would volunteer twice weekly after school with these students, the teacher, and her professor and she absolutely fell in love with the project. Her passion for American history and teaching helped one group of students earn a trip to the city competition. Because of this volunteer experience, it was mutually decided that she be placed at this school for student teaching, where she could continue to work with the students on this important initiative.
During her student teaching experience, Jennifer continued to serve more hours than what was required to help the ‘History Hunters’ program be more inclusive of interested students. Throughout the year, the project grew to the point where more and more students joined and staff actively helped recruit for the program. The collaborative effort of the entire school community led to a growing excitement for the upcoming competition not only amongst the students, but throughout the staff, and administration. Due to this, the students were encouraged and motivated to really present their finest work, which led to a first place finish at the New York City Competition, a first for that middle school.
It is engagement on this level that will make Jennifer stand out as a prime candidate for any teaching role she finds herself applying to in the future. It’s this spirit that makes prized educators stand out, and one that I hope to instill in future educators for years to come.
Director of Student Engagement
The School of Education
St. John’s University
Queens, New York
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