Our View From Here

Perspectives of Five Women

Teaching: Not My First Calling

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I sort of always knew I’d be a teacher, although it’s not where I originally started out. I was planning on working professionally in technical theatre, mainly stage management and lighting.  I was a theatre major in college, I worked at the campus concert/sports arena, did any freelance theatre/concert work I could get, and had even started looking into touring companies for my post-college employment. However, by the time I got to the end of my undergraduate degree, I was rather burnt out on theatre.  Too many semesters doing academic theatre in which everyone was doing what their professor expected of them to get the best grade possible plus years of working as a grunt in any place that would hire me wore me down.  I left school with a degree that I didn’t think I’d be using anytime soon.

Due to a friend’s recommendation (and later reference), I ended up serving in AmeriCorps for two years.  I worked with low-incidence special education students and loved it. During that time, I also tutored some of the general education kids in English.  Around the beginning of my second year, I started looking for a grad program for teacher certification because by then, I knew that teaching was where I needed to be. I found a program that combined my Theatre major and English minor into a dual-certification program at New York University. Two years and two student teaching placements (one elementary, one secondary) later, I was certified to teach in New York State.

NY - Albany: New York State Department of Educ...

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I was hired by the New York City Dept. of Education at a huge job fair in February, three months before I graduated.  Now, the way the NYCDOE does their recruiting is that the main administration hires teachers and then puts on a series of job fairs for those new employees to meet potential principals.  I had a job, but I didn’t have a school. After a snafu at the main office, I was placed in the wrong area of the city at an elementary school.  After multiple calls to my recruiter, she got me into a high school, but still in the East Bronx instead of Manhattan/West Bronx, which would have been much closer to where I lived in New Jersey.

Anyway, I showed up to the comprehensive high school on the first day of school. No one had any idea I was coming.  I ended up sitting around for two days, shuffled back and forth between the English and Special Education departments.  Finally, halfway through the first day of school, I was sent to teach self-contained English to students with learning disabilities. Not having an official training about teaching special education, I was making it up as I went along. I had no curriculum, no textbooks, few novels, and fewer resources. If it wasn’t for a veteran teacher who took pity on me, I would have been lost during that first month.

After two years, I decided to return to the Seattle area where I had grown up. Armed with glowing recommendation letters, I applied to several districts, including the one that I had been in. However, due to a unforeseen and completely out of my control incident, I was unable to get my teaching certification in Washington before the beginning of the school year. Turns out that only one person at NYU can sign off the paperwork stating that you have completed an education program, and that one guy was out of the office for six weeks because of an emergency knee surgery. I got the papers signed before I left the state, but it took another eight weeks to go through Washington state.

Fortunately for me, an English teacher at the high school less than a mile from my house retired at the end of the September. Turns out he’d been on medical leave the year before, returned in August, and shortly realized he couldn’t do it.  I applied, interviewed and started on October 15th. Unfortunately, it was a non-continuing contract, meaning the school district was under no obligation to keep me the following year.  I started the next school year without a position, but then took a long-term sub position that turned into another non-continuing contract. A letter from the superintendent in February informed everyone that while there would not be any layoffs that year, no non-continuing contracts would be renewed. I decided to take the opportunity to go back to school and get that Special Education endorsement that I had been thinking about.

So, here I am, at the start of another school year. I have my certification in English, Drama, and Special Education, four years of teaching experience, and no job. A large part of that is due to the state that the economy is – one of the first things cut was education.  While people aren’t being laid off any longer, no one is really hiring much either. I have had three interviews and no offers so far with another two or three coming up. School starts either Sept. 1 or 8, depending on the district, so the jobs are starting to taper off.  If nothing else, I can sub or get a job in a tutoring center somewhere.

I had hoped at this point in my life, I would be at a school somewhere, well integrated into the school culture, and involved in after school activities.  Hopefully, I will have excellent news in the next couple of weeks – that I have found the school I want to be at long-term and I love my new job.

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May I Introduce Myself…

I’m Samantha. Of the lot of us, I’m the oldest by about seven months.  I’m also the only one not on the East Coast, though I used to be. I currently live just outside of Seattle, where I was born and raised but have lived very little of my adult life.  From the time I was 16 until I was almost 29, I lived in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and New York City.  I moved home a few years ago.

I went to Penn State for undergrad, which is where I met many of my best friends.  I served two years of AmeriCorps before deciding to go to grad school at NYU. Career-wise, I am a high school English, Drama, and Special Education teacher. I taught in the Bronx for two years and then in a suburban Seattle school district for two more.  During the second year there, I was told that I would not have a position for the coming fall. Fortunately, this allowed me to go back to school to get my Special Education endorsement. I have recently graduated with my Masters in Education from the University of Washington and now face the challenge to find a job. The employment situation isn’t as bad as it was two years ago when districts were laying people of, but they still aren’t hiring much.  Fingers crossed!

My little guy, Toby

I am the mommy of a two-year-old dog named Toby. He’s a Bichon Frise/Shih Tzu mix, though he looks much more Shih Tzu. Toby makes me laugh, as I have never met a more good-natured, happy little dog. He likes people, likes to go on adventures, and likes playing with his brother (who is owned by my mom!).

Nasturtiums on the balcony

Finally, in what spare time I have, I enjoy reading, writing, gardening, sewing, and I’m getting into cooking.  I have a small garden on my balcony – not that it did much with the weather we had this year.  I am in the process of sewing a comforter set for my bed and I’m almost done.  As for cooking, I am starting to experiment with new recipes. More on that later!  I’m hoping to get more into bike riding. We have a lot of great trails around here and I recently purchased a great new bike.  Now, just as long as the weather stays nice a little longer!

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