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INTERVIEWER: You were new to NJSEA this past academic year. What made you want to join?
DANIELA CEBALLOS: One of my professors at Middlesex County College told me about NJSEA, and I wanted to belong to a group with people that shared my interests. My professor also mentioned all of the benefits that would be available to me, like Professional Development hours. I really wanted to feel like part of something important, and my time with NJSEA so far has been great.
INTERVIEWER: I’m glad she encouraged you to join because you’ve been a great addition to our team. Being a newer member, why did you decide to run for the state secretary position?
CEBALLOS: I decided to run because I wanted to be involved in a larger leadership role and show my students and others that it doesn’t matter who you are; you can make a difference in the world if you work hard enough.
INTERVIEWER: That is very true. Working hard takes you far in life, and it is wonderful that you want to teach your students by example. What do you hope to contribute as a new NJSEA state officer for this upcoming 2017 – 2018 academic year?
CEBALLOS: I want to bring more awareness about the benefits of membership to preservice educators. Another, major goal for me is to bring more diversity into the profession, so I want to advocate for more people from different backgrounds and majors to join us.
INTERVIEWER: I think those are great goals to have for NJSEA. I know other than NJSEA you have already been working in a classroom setting as an instructional assistant. I think that means you have a lot of real experience you can offer advice to other preservice educators. What advice would you give to them?
CEBALLOS: Yes, I work as an instructional assistant, and it has been an awesome experience, as I have had the chance to learn about different styles of teaching. My advice is to work as an ESP for a year, if you have the chance to do so, because you will get to see different teaching styles and approaches to classroom management without having to worry about doing lesson plans. Being an instructional assistant has helped me see how a classroom can run without the pressure of following a lesson plan by myself. Another positive aspect of being an instructional assistant is being with the same children every day and building a close bond with them. In fact, one of my biggest fears is getting too attached to the students and not knowing what to do when they all leave at the end of the year, but being an instructional aid is helping me overcome that fear because I know that my children need to move on, keep learning, and become even better in all that they do – and so do I.
At this year's NJSEA Leadership Matters Conference, the nomination of new officers took place. Unanimously, the positions for President, Vice President, and Secretary were decided. This coming summer, Jessica Quijano will move from her current position as Vice President to State President, and Anthony Elia will move up from Secretary to Vice President. A new ambassador and dedicated educator, Daniela Ceballos will become the new state Secretary.
Incoming President: Jessica Quijano
Someone once said, "Leadership is action, not a position." I am honored to be the incoming President of this exceptional organization, and I will let me actions as your leader speak louder than my words. Together, we can rise strong. Together, we will share our passion for education.
The College of New Jersey
Incoming Vice President: Anthony Elia
I want to thank everyone for continued support and giving me this opportunity to continue to serve you. NJSEA has become a second family to me, and I enjoy working with each and every one of you. I hope to bring NJSEA to new heights, bringing more members to our preservice branch of the union. I look forward to another great year in which we will continue to rise strong.
The College of New Jersey
Incoming Secretary: Daniela Ceballos
I am honored to be the incoming Secretary for NJSEA. Diversity is great because we are able to learn so many different ideas from one another and learn to accept everyone, and NJSEA is definitely diverse. This helps us grow as individual people and as an organization. I look forward to learning and growing alongside so many dedicated preservice members.
Student teaching is a time for preservice educators to test his or her teaching skills, subject knowledge, and gain insight on how grade levels differ and what grade they feel suits them best. This is the final step for teaching candidates before they are sent into a classroom of their own. All the classes and endless amount of hours creating practice lesson plans are put into fruition. Student teaching comes with wonderful experiences; however, one should expect that what can go wrong just may go wrong, and it is what that preservice educator does next that matters the most.
I have been given the opportunity to have two placements for student teaching. As my first placement comes to an end, I will reflect on it and give you some advice from my experience. Before I go into the tips, let me tell you about my placement. I was placed into a sixth, seventh, and eighth grade self-contained Learning and/or Language Disabilities (LLD) class in a middle school. All my students had a wide range of disabilities, and at times, it was difficult. After spending eight weeks with them, I have determined six tips that can be beneficial to all student teachers, not just the ones who find themselves in similar situation as my own.
1. Take into account your students’ voice. My cooperating teacher had the ability to teach across three different grade levels for social studies and science. My students were different, as are all students in the public school system. I went into my student teaching thinking about my students, so I asked them what they wanted to learn about and how I could make it engaging for them. Being a caring teacher means that you take into account what your students want to learn about. During my student teaching, I wanted to make sure my students had a voice in the classroom, so the students researched an animal of their choice and looked at the different aspects of an ecosystem. In my final days, the students completed a diorama to show their learning. The diorama held the same value in regards to learning as a test would. I knew that my students could not sit and take a test, so I created a project for them to do instead. They were engaged and all demonstrated what they learned about from researching different ecosystems. Plus, it was something they were interested in doing, which made them invested.
2. Take into account the environment students come from.Before stepping into your placement, take into account where your students come form. My students come from very different lives, such as divorced families or being raised by grandparents. Where they come from determines how they will learn, as a student’s life and possible baggage doesn’t get left at the door. For example, one of my students couldn’t focus on our lesson and didn’t want to participate because he was hungry, so I gave him my banana to help him focus on the task. I sacrificed a piece of my lunch so my student could succeed for the day. After this, I always packed more for lunch than I would eat to ensure that if a student needed something to eat, I could give it to him or her. You may be a student’s only smile, kind word, or resource center, so always consider what your students may be handling outside of the classroom and how you can help.
3. Take time to plan. Lesson planning can be extremely stressful, especially if, like me, you work a weekend job, have two classes during the week, and go to placement during the weekdays. So, when and how do you make time to plan? Make a schedule. Life can be busy, so in your schedule, create times to plan – and relax! No one likes a tired and stressful teacher.
4. Do not get discouraged from a poor review. Every student teacher dreads his or her supervisor’s visits. Nothing is more discouraging than receiving low scores on whichever system the supervisor uses, whether that means seeing ones and twos on an evaluation or not proficient. But do not get discouraged by these evaluations! Student teaching is a time to grow and learn. Do not be afraid to ask questions, get constructive feedback, or examine your lesson with a more critical eye (it is also your class grade after all). Expect to grow from your first observation to your last. Everyone has to start somewhere.
5. Remember that it’s okay to ask for help. Never be afraid of your supervisor or your cooperating teacher. If you are having trouble with something, like planning or classroom management, ask your supervisor or cooperating teacher for help because that is exactly why they are there – to guide you. You are not a seasoned, veteran teacher, so ask for help (they won’t bite).
6. Breathe. The last thing is to just breathe. Relax. Everything is going to be fine. You are going to survive, even when you feel like a lesson completely flopped (no one is going to die from a bad lesson, and students aren’t going to eat you alive). Close your eyes, and just breathe. Life may seem to be going a million miles a minute, especially during student teaching, but you must make an effort to slow yourself down every once in a while. Always remember to breathe because in this growth process, there is nothing to be nervous about. You got this. Remember: You were born for this.
With that, I leave you. I wish someone gave me these tips for when I started, but I learned this from my cooperating teacher. Of course, there are so many more things to talk about, like how you will get attached to your students and miss them when you leave the classroom. Just remember this is a tough but rewarding process for everyone, but you were born for this. So, go and shape the minds of the future president, doctors, nurses, lawyers, poets, scientists, artists, or even future teachers.
By Rebecca Takacs, Fairleigh Dickinson University
Is there any advice you would give that isn't mentioned here to a student teacher? Do you agree with this advice? Did this advice help you?
Do you have 60 college credits or more and free weekdays during your summer break or in your next semester schedule? One great way to get more classroom experience and make some extra money is to become a substitute teacher. Here are the steps to become a New Jersey Certified Substitute:
Time to Wait...
Now you wait for your Certificate to come through. How long it takes will depend on the time of the year. As soon as your district gets notification that you are officially “Sub Certified,” you will get more information from your district on how you can start subbing.
* Don’t worry – you will make this money back once you start substitute teaching. Most districts pay their substitutes between $75-$100 a day.
Good luck with the application process!
- Mariah Belber, The College of New Jersey, Social Media Chair
INTERVIEWER: Deanna, you’ve been an ambassador for quite a while now, so, I’m curious as to what has been your favorite experience working with NJSEA at the state level?
DEANNA KOLLAR: My favorite experiences have definitely been attending the NEA Student Summer Leadership Conferences with the New Jersey delegation. I was fortunate to attend the Orlando Conference in 2015 and the Washington D.C Conference this past summer. Both times gave me the opportunity to attend workshops with preservice educators from all over the country, which was really awesome. It was interesting to compare the problems that we face in New Jersey with those of other states. Being around so many people that have the same goals and visions for their students and their classroom was an empowering feeling. The whole experience made me excited to return home because I’d be able to try out some of the things I learned for my student teaching.
INTERVIEWER: NJSEA does offer some great travel opportunities. I enjoy being able to network with other dedicated and enthusiastic educators, as well. Thinking closer to home, I know you’re also involved with your local chapter, so what has been your favorite experience working with your local chapter?
KOLLAR: My favorite experience with my local chapter was attending a Jersey Cares Day in Trenton. For this event, NJSEA members met up at a school in Trenton to paint hallways, classrooms, and outside blacktop. My chapter’s job was to paint a hopscotch course on the blacktop of the school parking lot. It was a great chance to bond with people from my local chapter, and it felt nice to work together and complete a service project that we knew students would be excited about.
INTERVIEWER: I’ve seen pictures from that event, and it is impressive how much NJSEA accomplishes working together. You’ve talked about traveling, professional development workshops, and networking, so if you had to wrap it all up in one answer, how has NJSEA helped you grow as an educator from your earlier college years to your recent graduation?
KOLLAR: NJSEA has provided me with a supportive network of educators and preservice teachers, and as a result, I am much more confident and comfortable with entering the profession. If I run into a tough situation or need advice, I feel that I have multiple people I can turn to for help. I am incredibly thankful for all the professional development workshops and conferences I’ve gone to through NJSEA, which are some of the events that helped me network. Going to these events have kept me in the loop and up to date on current educational buzz words, practices, and initiatives. I’ve also learned a lot about being a leader. In the last four years, I have transitioned from being a general member to the chapter president and state ambassador. I’ve seen what works and what does not work in terms of reaching out to members, getting people involved in projects, and coordinating events. The experiences and skills I have gained will no doubt help me when I become a full-time teacher.
INTERVIEWER: Sounds like NJSEA has helped you in many different ways! I think the family of educators and network that preservice members are able to grow is invaluable. Now, to change the subject a bit, you recently graduated, and I heard that you have come across the opportunity to teach abroad, specifically in Thailand. How did you come about this opportunity to teach a year in Thailand, and what attracted you to this opportunity?
KOLLAR: The organization I am going through is the Council on International Educational Exchange (CIEE), and I found out about it at a presentation that I attended at Rowan University. A few months prior, I had traveled to India to teach in several village schools for two weeks. India was my first time out of the country, and I loved how education was valued over there. Traveling in a country that has a different set of values, rules, and norms was a humbling and an eye-opening experience. I felt like I grew so much from that trip – even though it was only in two weeks! So, when I heard about the opportunity to teach for a year in Thailand, all I could think about is what I could learn from connecting with new people and being immersed in a new culture.
INTERVIEWER: That sounds like a truly amazing experience. Traveling abroad before myself, I find that being thrown into a new culture is quite awe-inspiring, and we have so much to learn from cultures different from our own. Going abroad, you will bring your own experience and values into the classroom, much like your students. What do you hope to accomplish for your students while teaching abroad?
KOLLAR: While in Thailand, I’ll be teaching English to grades K-2. I hope to expose my students to the larger world outside of their province; however, I think my students will be teaching me much more than I will be teaching them. From my students, I hope to gain a new perspective and set of strategies that I can bring back home to the United States.
Caroline Clark and Mollie Blackburn, the authors of “Reading LGBT-Themed Literature with Young People,” state, “For some, teaching LGBT-themed texts seems impossible. They cannot imagine how teachers, especially novice ones, can do this work.” In the new Trump administration, this thought has crossed my mind more than I’d like. We’ve seen worry that LGBT rights, such as gay marriage, achieved under Obama will be repealed under Trump. We’ve already seen controversy over transgender people using the bathrooms in schools – now having to use the bathroom of their biological sex, not the gender with which they identify. Luckily, we’ve seen many schools ignore this switch and support their transgender students, and we have role models like Laverne Cox to remind us, “It’s important when we have conversations with and about transgender people that we do not reduce [them] to body parts. [They] are more than the sum of [their] parts.” And like Cox, I agree that this isn’t really about bathrooms. This is about visibility. This is why I encourage educators, particularly new educators, to teach LGBT-themed texts in the classroom and talk about LGBT history because this increases visibility, which leads to more positive outcomes for the students and the community.
I know, I know. Telling you to teach about the LGBT community and its history and experiences of people in it is easier said than done, especially in schools with more conservative administration or Board of Education. But, think about it, heterosexism and homophobia are forms of oppression that have become institutionalized and normalized. If educators actually bring up the topics and issues, they can start to dismantle these oppressions. Yes, risky business, but as long as you aren’t pushing your beliefs onto students and rather talking about these topics, issues, and histories in a general, analytical and critical way, it’s legal. (Much like teaching the Bible as literature rather than religious text) School is the place where sexual and gender identities are being developed, but it is also the place where there is insufficient sexual education. Educators have to challenge the unwritten curriculum because that can make an impact in preventing suicides and bullying and understanding LGBT intimacy, as LGBT people will be acknowledged, empowered, and normalized. It helps students that may identify or may be allies as it reduces invisibility of LGBT students, their family, and the community and gives everyone a common and appropriate language.
“If individuals never explore their homophobia and the ways it affects students, the likelihood of interrupting the ideological heterosexism in schools is weak."
Incorporating LGBT topics and texts into the classroom means collaboration is key: Collaboration between the educator and students, colleagues, and parents/guardians. Perhaps the hardest to see collaboration with in that list is the parents and caregivers. Educators often fear the criticism and objections from parents and guardians, but it is important to see the power in cooperation. It may help to inform them about the National Association for Multicultural Education's (NAME) policy, which states that gay culture and themes has been a part of the education agenda since 1992. The reasoning for this inclusion in the NAME policy is to combat homophobia and heterosexism. Also, parents worry that talking about LGBT novels and themes will mean talking about sex or promoting homosexuality. While LGBT culture is not just about sex (believe it or not), parents and teachers can and should play a key role in educating their children about sexuality because not talking about sex and sexuality doesn’t make it magically disappear. For some parents and guardians, having these professional conversations might be enough, but for others, they may want to witness how this plays out in the classroom; allowing parents to volunteer in the class could be a way to alleviate worries.
Working together with colleagues is vital when moving towards the incorporation of LGBT texts and topics because often, educators do not have resources or feel a lack of support, which makes them shy away from the inclusion all together. Much like an educator would for multicultural literature, creating a checklist of criteria and stocking a classroom library with the help of colleagues is a good place to start. Educators should talk critically about the works together to develop a concrete rationale of how these texts can be used in class or as ancillary readings. This all requires educators to challenge their attitudes on LGBT issues and move out of their comfort zone. Stephanie Logan, Terri Lasswell, Yolanda Hood, and Dwight Watson, write, “If individuals never explore their homophobia and the ways it affects students, the likelihood of interrupting the ideological heterosexism in schools is weak."
Working with students is obviously a must when it comes to discussing LGBT literature, history, texts, and issues, and it should begin early on in school because at a young age, students are beginning to develop identities and concepts of fairness and justice. During these young ages, students are most open to talk about differences and accepting others. Being part of a democratic society means being open about to talk about cultures and possible prejudices in an accurate and professional way, so using LGBT-themed works aids in that goal as students move towards thinking more critically through reading, writing, and discussion. Mostly, it comes down to fostering a supportive, democratic, and accountable community in the classroom.
Working together and incorporating LGBT texts and information is only the tip of the iceberg. (We all know that iceberg graphic, right? There’s so much more under the surface to uncover, and there’s waaaay more to students and communities and topics than we can understand in a short span of time.) Well, there’s a lot to unpack in the iceberg of teaching about LGBT topics, but it also helps to know what to avoid when approaching this topic and what we actually should and can do. Here’s a quick “Do and Don’t” checklist:
Diversity in schools and classrooms should be viewed as a means to have critical discussions and talk about intersectionality and commonalities. Students walk into your classroom with unique experiences and identities, and these don’t get left at the door when they come to your class. As a preservice educator, it is my hope that I am able to incorporate texts and these above practices in my future classroom. It is also my dream to teach an elective course on gender and sexuality, and that dream is only strengthened by the controversies surrounding the LGBT community during this new Trump administration. Being in schools recently, I’ve heard the worry of students and educators, and I know now more than ever it is important – vital – to stand with them in solidarity and support minority students and colleagues. It is crucial to have tough conversations. It is necessary to educate ourselves on topics and be the spark that starts the fire.
Most of this information came from a website I created a few years ago, and it is a website I plan to continue working on, as you’ll see two of the pages are under construction. I will link this website below (the first link), along with other websites and resources preservice and active educators may find useful.
Transgender History by Susan Stryker
Stonewall Uprising by David Carter
Films: Screaming Queens; Milk; But I’m a Cheerleader; We Were Here; TransGeneration; Stonewall Uprising
By Chelsea Hahn, The College of New Jersey
What have your experiences been like regarding learning about LGBT topics in school? Do you believe we should be teaching about these topics in elementary school? How do you respond to the Trump administration controversies around LGBT issues? Do you have any resources for LGBT topics you’d like to share? Leave your responses to any of these questions or just general thoughts below in the comment section.
New Jersey Preservice Education Association (NJSEA)
As the preservice branch of the New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), we aspire to empower, excite, and inspire all future educators about their upcoming teaching careers in public education.
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