As I’m sure you’re aware, the President of NJSEA leads the organization and works with a large plethora of people. Could you please describe your leadership style?
ELLEN BACON: This is something I’m looking forward to about the upcoming year if elected. I’m looking forward to stepping into a more union-based leadership style. NJSEA is a part of the union, so I want to see us with increased leadership in that aspect, like being on more NJEA committees. I don’t ever want to be the type of leader that stands in front of everyone giving orders. Instead, I want to be the type of leader that is taking from different sources, pulling ideas together and collaborating to create a better future for everyone as a whole.
MARIAH BELBER: My leadership style is definitely collaborative. I know that there are always people in the room who have knowledge I don’t, experiences I don’t; I can work with as many people as possible from many different positions and backgrounds to increase the engagement of members and create events that work for them and that they want to come to.
SAMANTHA SELIKOFF: My leadership style is that I always try to incorporate as many people as I can, such as the ambassadors, and gather their ideas to hear diverse opinions when making a decision. Everyone comes from a different perspective, so it’s good to get feedback from different places. Then I will also be able to help people who have questions with their assignments, and I’m not afraid to ask people who have gone through it before for advice in order to get the best possible results.
What is something new you are hoping to bring to NJSEA?
BACON: I think I want to continue on the path we’re on. Our current president, Hannah, has gone above and beyond for this organization. I look forward to increased collaboration with the NJEA and more presence on campuses around the state, especially community colleges. That’s something I really look forward to tackling in the upcoming year. It’s something I don’t think we’ve fully, 100% accomplished this year to the extent that we wanted to, so I’d like to extend that goal into next year, as well.
BELBER: Something I really would like to do is connect more with on-campus chapters. Sometimes, it seems there can be a disconnect with smaller chapters with fewer ambassadors that are maybe just starting out. I’d reach out more to connect them with larger chapters and the state as a whole, making sure they know what’s happening at a state level. Sometimes, people don’t know what’s happening at the state level until they are told about it. I think this might help fix that.
SELIKOFF: This past year, we focused a lot on political action and teacher quality, with the lobbying days and making the counties such an important part of the program, offering those professional developments. I think community outreach is also really important. What I would do is create more community outreach days such as Read Across America, which is already a really big part of the NEA, but also things related to Earth Day, and possibly more events like food drives. I’d add some more of that to connect better with our community.
Could you give an example of an idea you implemented on a state or local level? How did you go about it?
BACON: I’ve collaborated at Seton Hall [University] to create our schedule for this past year. We’ve done multiple events for our members. I’m not somebody who is like an “idea-only” person. I’m more of a person willing to work in a group of people and build upon ideas. I bring up various ideas, and even if they’re not implemented, sometimes they lead to other developments. I think this is the best way to create something really great for members. I encourage other and their ideas and look forward to increased communication with my chapter, and on the state level, in order to determine the best options for our organization.
BELBER: I’m sure you know about the ability to attend full-time member professional development at the county level. This was something that was talked about at a workshop at the NEA SLC [National Education Association Summer Leadership Conference] that I went to last summer. I said to [current NJSEA President] Hannah, “Why don’t we do this?” So we contacted a lot of the local and county associations of NJEA and they were very excited to have us come in. I know my local, near my home, a lot of the members were unaware of NJSEA. Getting our name out there so NJEA can see there are so many pre-service members excited about their field was a great experience. The full time members enjoyed seeing pre-service members attending events and it’s also great for us because we get some great professional development opportunities.
SELIKOFF: Well, this year I was appointed as the NJSEA Relations Chair. That connected our members with committees and county associations. I went around to all the different people at the Convention needed for this, which is how I ended up planning the Awareness Fair. I also went to affiliate meetings and was in communication with those, such as a Council of Exceptional Children workshop that I was able to open up to our members. I also was able to open up county events to members through this same method. I think members benefitted a lot from these additional opportunities.
Why are you an education major?
BACON: This is what I’ve wanted to do my entire life. I was actually let into kindergarten early, so I was younger than the other kids. They [school personnel] were a little skeptical at first, but they immediately knew I was ready to go to school. Now I think I’ve kept that momentum going; I’m always ready to go to school. The school system is the place for me. As a child, I’d go home and play school, “grade” papers, and create a math test to do “for fun.” Now, obviously, things have changed. But, I’m an education major because there’s nothing else for me. Luckily, I found at a young age what I was put on this earth to do.
BELBER: Honestly, I grew up with a lot of cousins, so I was always surrounded by a lot of younger kids. From as far back as I can remember, we would play school and I would always be the teacher. I’ve always known this is what I wanted to do. I chose special education because I have two cousins on the Autism Spectrum, and seeing my cousin who is nonverbal be able to communicate with me and give me a high five, just even tell me he is having a good day was incredible. That was an amazing experience for me and I want to do that for other families and students.
SELIKOFF: I’m an education major because teachers can have a large impact on students without even realizing it. Educators play such a large role in the lives of children, because you never know who you may have in your classroom, or what the students will accomplish. You don’t know whose life you may touch or who you might inspire through teaching, but you know you will definitely change lives and impact children.
What would you say was the most important lesson you learned through a field placement?
BACON: Over-plan. I just do it all the time in my life now. Over-plan and be able to bounce back from mishaps. I remember the first lesson I ever taught in the field through a placement, the aide in the room actually told me it was a disaster. But, the bell rang and it was time for period two. It taught me- from my very first lesson- that each period is a fresh start and you’ve just got to run with that fresh start; we move on from things that don’t quite go our way. We over-plan because not everyone is the same and we need to differentiate to make sure everyone can learn effectively and gets the proper education they are entitled to.
BELBER: I’m currently at a practicum in a school right now, and through this experience I’ve learned it’s very important to advocate for your students. There are students who are struggling and need accommodations and services, but haven’t been evaluated yet. It’s important that, as educators, we advocate for their needs, and when they have an IEP, that we advocate for their lawful rights.
SELIKOFF: I think that the best lesson that I’ve learned through my field placements is to not be afraid to take initiative; to go ahead and take that leap if you don’t see something in the classroom that you’d like to see. In one of my past practicums, the students were learning about the Holocaust and they were reading Number the Stars. We were doing interviews in our history class, so I reached out to the Holocaust Museum in Cherry Hill and the VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars) to see if they had anyone they could send to the class for interviews. They ended up sending three speakers, and the children were so engaged and interested. I took initiative and wasn’t afraid to take that extra step. Just like anything, even within NJSEA, the biggest thing I’ve learned is to not be afraid to put your own twist on it and always take initiative.
What would your friends or professors say about your character? How would they describe you as a person?
BACON: They would probably say that I am passionate. They can see this is the field I intend on making my life’s work and I don’t vary from that. In class, I am very participatory; I get this excitement about topics and I want to analyze the material. If anything, I’m very vocal and excited to learn. I’m very passionate about education and what I do.
BELBER: They would definitely describe me as an overachiever. I tend to walk into a project and take it “head-on.” I actually walked into an event for a club I am now co-president of, and was made treasurer within ten minutes of being at the event. That’s just who I am. They would also say I’m organized. My organization style helps me manage my time, because the five-year program I’m in is a lot to balance along with all of my NJSEA ambassador responsibilities. But because I’m so organized, I’m able to manage my time well. My professors would definitely say I am passionate. I am in the special education program at TCNJ and I’m currently helping plan my third Autism Week at my school. I’m very passionate about what I do.
SELIKOFF: I think they’d describe me as passionate, creative and outgoing. They’d say passionate because I put 110% into everything I do. If I’m going to do something, I make sure I do it the correct way, whether that means asking for help if I need it, or taking appropriate steps independently. Creative would be another word people would use to describe me because I take initiative and come up with different solutions that other people might not have thought of originally. I’m also outgoing because, like I said, I’m very involved on [TCNJ] campus, with many organizations such as NJSEA, KDP (Kappa Delta Pi), and Teachers of Young Children. I’m not afraid to put myself out there, just like I did to open county associations to our members through reaching out to the affiliate groups.
Why do you think you are a good fit for this position? What has prepared you or what skill set do you possess?
BACON: I think I’m the best person for this position, truly in my heart, I think I am best for this organization. I have Executive Board experience, because I was secretary this past year. I have experience with my chapter, and with other chapters that I’ve collaborated with as Seton Hall’s co-president this past year. I helped organize regional meetings, so I also have experience with that. I also think especially with the ambassador team, and interacting with them as part of the E-Board, it prepared me to further propel the organization forward. I really feel I’m best for this position in order to keep the organization moving because of my level of experience.
BELBER: I think I’m a good fit because of my passion for NJSEA. I joined the organization to go to Convention my freshman year and was at the registration booth talking to Hannah [Pawlak]. Marguerite walked over and introduced herself to me and now I can’t imagine my life in college without NJSEA. It’s become such a big part of my life, so I really want to see it succeed and grow. This year we hit 1,000 members, and next year I’d like to aim even higher. NJSEA has been such a big part of my college career and I want to see it succeed and grow as much as possible, which is what you need in a president. My leadership style is also very collaborative, and I’d love to get to work with the leadership team. My role as an ambassador has actually taught me a lot about myself as a leader and I just want to keep working with this amazing group of people.
SELIKOFF: I’ve grown a lot through the organization and it has definitely made my college experience worthwhile, exciting and enjoyable. I started with NJSEA my freshman year and I can honestly say my college experience wouldn’t have been the same without it. I’d be a good fit for NJSEA President because of the work I’ve done this year being NJSEA Relations Chair and Convention Chair. I’ve been able to organize different people and see who I think fits best in what position and with which responsibilities. I’ve created more opportunities for members, like county events and the Awareness Fair. I am also part of the organizing fellowship with the NEA, which also helps with the position of President, because I was able to learn multiple ways to grow membership and I’ve seen it work at TCNJ.
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there anything else you want members to know about you?
BACON: I think just that I’m very honored for this opportunity. I’m excited to move forward and this experience in general is very motivating, especially after being elected as NJSEA Secretary last year. We all know NJSEA stands for teacher quality, but also from the political action stance, and community outreach, I’ve grown so much through NJSEA as a professional and a person. There are things I am so excited to do and accomplish throughout the next year, and I would just be so honored if people granted me this opportunity.
BELBER: I just want to reiterate the fact that NJSEA has been a huge part of my college career. It’s been an amazing experience and I want to get as many pre-service educators involved as possible so they can get out of NJSEA what I have. It’s a pretty scary time to go into education, but seeing all the support offered through the union and your peers makes it less scary. You have such a great support system with NJSEA.
SELIKOFF: Just that, like I said, I really enjoy being part of the organization. It has helped me grow and I would like to continue to help members and bring new things to NJSEA that will benefit the organization. I would be honored to be NJSEA President of the 2016-2017 year.
Why are you an education major?
JESSICA QUIJANO: Well, it might sound cliché, but I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. I think part of the reason is because I was considered a below average student in literacy, but talented in math and science. I’ve had the struggle where I’m bored in class, because I’m an advanced learner, but also the experience that I am struggling and didn’t know what to do with myself. It was my teachers I’ve had that noticed that in me, and they helped me learn how to balance it. I was given the attention I needed when I didn’t know I needed it. I just feel like when you’re a teacher you’re able to make a difference in a child’s life, whether it’s giving them the attention they need or just human actions. As a teacher, you notice struggles kids are having and try to help them, whether it is academic struggle or a physical one, like helping them eat when they’re hungry. You try to help them with their struggles and to feel better about themselves.
REBECCA TAKACS: Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve always been there to teach. I remember helping my little cousin when she struggled a bit in school. From a young age, I supported her and supplemented her reading. I just love to teach. I love sculpting the minds of young kids, because they are our future after all, and I want to be a part of that.
Individuals on the NJSEA Executive Board need to work with many people from various backgrounds to accomplish goals. Could you please describe your style of working with others?
QUIJANO: I would say that as much as I’m a leader, I’m also a team player in that I’m able to delegate tasks, but also help people through them. I believe everyone is equal, regardless of position, and everyone has responsibilities. I think that knowing that your Vice President is the same as you, with her own responsibilities, always willing to help, makes people more comfortable. It’s not a tyranny, it’s a community and a family.
TAKACS: I work well with other people. I give 110% every time. You can talk with me easily and I’m open to new and interesting ideas from other people. I like to work with people collaboratively, because in this world you can’t work by yourself to accomplish goals, you need to have some sort of support in order to get the best results.
Can you give an example of your leadership style through an education-related experience?
QUIJANO: I would say I definitely displayed this when I was an art teacher at a Polish summer camp last summer. I worked with teaching assistants in my classroom, but I made it more equal than just me doing everything myself. I let everyone share in the responsibilities in order to allow everyone to gain insight, knowledge, and experience, rather than keeping the whole experience and show for myself. This way, we were all able to learn and grow together.
TAKACS: We have a tutoring program at FDU and through there I work with some of the people in our chapter and education program. I’ve worked with people to enhance the tutoring program, making sure people sign up, they are going, meeting with their students, and keeping up with their responsibilities. I have to work with others to make sure the members are on the right track. Two years ago, I helped develop the program with our president, Melany [Reyes], and a few of the other students. It’s nice to see the program developing and working well for the students.
What aspect of your undergraduate career are you most proud of?
QUIJANO: I would say my flexibility and my desire to learn more. Having been in different majors allows me the opportunity to know what I want to do. I entered college as a biology secondary education major, and switching into my current major with STEM taught me I need to be happy with my own choices in order to share myself and my knowledge and skills. You need to make a change in yourself first to get the end product that you want, sometimes. The experience taught me to always continue learning more about myself in order to be the best I can be both professionally and personally.
TAKACS: I’m writing an undergraduate thesis on math anxiety and introducing the idea of a mathematics workshop. I’ve been working with my mentor and we’ve been developing plans for the workshop. To be able to have my thesis published for the school [Farleigh Dickinson University] is pretty rewarding and I’m going to use it [the topic] to work on my Master’s thesis next year. I’m hoping to expand that idea and work with it further in my future in education. It’s something I know is very important for both students and educators to know about and address.
Who would you say has impacted you the most throughout your undergraduate career as a pre-service educator?
QUIJANO: I would say my advisor has impacted me the most in that she has always been a resource for me. When I travel or am having trouble with something, she always gives me the tools I need to work toward a solution to my problem, such as websites, books, or stories to help me. She’s always there with an open door to support me. She’s taught me that no one is perfect and you should embrace your imperfections; rather than say, “Oh, I’m not good at this,” say, “What can I do, and what steps can I take to make myself better?” Knowing that in a lesson it’s not going to be perfect allows you to be less stressed about it. Your whole lesson isn’t ruined, you can adapt and be positive.
TAKACS: It would have to be my mentor, Dr. Singer. She is my advisor and my mentor for my thesis and she has just been amazing; she’s done everything, and really helped me structure my thesis and what I want to do for my education and future. She’s been there helping me every step of the way. To learn from her is amazing because she’s helped me grow as a future educator. She’s taught me to be open to different students and to be a strong teacher leader. She’s taught me her persona- proper classroom management and how to be respected in your classroom.
Which course at your university was most meaningful to you? Why?
QUIJANO: That’s a hard one. I would say there are two courses. My Science Methods course taught me a lot. I took it [the course] at a time when I didn’t love science, and my professor taught me to embrace it rather than push it away. She helped show me that perspective of my students; what if students in my future class feel the way about a subject as I do about science? I was able to watch how she connected with me, and made the class more hands-on to engage me. It was a great experience for me because she modeled how I can teach similar students in my future classes. The other course would be my Conflict Resolution class. It taught me a lot about myself and how students need to know about themselves in order to be able to solve conflicts. They need to know things like: what is their tipping point, what bothers them, what can you do for yourself? There’s not one single way to solve a conflict, because it’s based on your personality. Conflict resolution has lots of variables and the techniques I’ve learned in that class have taught me to resolve problems both in my classroom and my general life.
TAKACS: It would have to be my Problem Based Strategies in Mathematics Class. When I learned math when I was younger, it was just one way that we learned math, but she [the professor] introduced different ways that we could teach math and allowed us to create lesson plans to make sure our students were actively engaged. I was able to show my creativity in my lesson plans; I had one where I had the class do aerobics, making the angles out of their arms. You can’t teach math until you actually do the math and understand it. It was a refresher course, but it also enhanced our skills that we learned previously to show us how to best teach math.
Why do you think you would be a good fit for the role of NJSEA Vice President?
QUIJANO: I think I am highly qualified for this position and I’m passionate about it. Through my experiences of being on the leadership team of NJSEA these past three years, being an active member on campus, and being an active member of NJSEA on a state level, I think there’s so much I can contribute. I am well-spoken, and I like different forms of communication with other members. I also think that through this position I can create opportunities for other campuses rather than just my own. I think I’m the right person for the job because I have seen NJSEA grow and have been a part of that process.
TAKACS: I would be a good fit for Vice President because I want to help enhance the NJSEA program and organization. I’ve been involved in my chapter, but I really wanted to give this a shot and become the leader I know I can be. I want to connect and network with other people from NJSEA and make sure we’re all getting the best out of this experience. I want to give back to NJSEA what it’s given me the last three years I’ve been a part of it.
Do you have any specific or general ideas you are hoping to bring to NJSEA?
QUIJANO: I know we [NJSEA] used to have a newsletter, but now that we’re sometimes in The Review, it’s been more on the President to send out monthly updates. I think maybe bringing back the newsletter would be a good idea in order to unite all the campuses. I know TCNJ’s campus, that’s my home, but being able to know what’s happening at FDU [Farleigh Dickinson University], Rowan, Seton Hall, etc., having that community and uniting everyone and telling each campus’ story- I’d want to work on that. Also, I want people to get involved in their local associations, in addition to what we’re already doing with the county associations. I think these things would benefit our organization and its members.
TAKACS: I think I’d like to maybe do something with bullying and also math anxiety. These are problems right now in the field of education and I think workshops on these topics would help teachers both with their students and themselves.
Is there anything else you’d like to say? Is there anything else you want members to know about you?
QUIJANO: I just want people to know I’m excited for this opportunity and I want to thank everyone for allowing me to have the opportunity to be in this race. There is also a quote I know, “From the outside looking in, it’s hard to understand. And from the inside looking out, it’s hard to explain.” And I think that NJSEA as a whole definitely defines that quote. Being a part of the leadership team, you impact so many things and you’re involved with so much. If you told “freshman me” I was in the leadership position I am in today, I would have laughed and said you were crazy. I thought the union was only political, and, to be honest, it scared me a little bit. But knowing everything I do, gaining valuable professional development, going to conferences and conventions, networking with professionals and pre-service educators across the country and state, I am now more knowledgeable about the problems that teachers face. It’s important we use our voice to secure our future.
TAKACS: I just want to reiterate that I will give 110% given the opportunity, and I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to be Vice President.
A Professor Stops you and Asks you Why you are Involved with NJSEA. What do you Tell that Professor?
Written by our new NJSEA Ambassadors!
“I would tell him or her that NJSEA is more than just a group of pre-service teachers who are hoping to get a job following graduation from college. NJSEA is composed of students whose dream is to be successful educators someday and who care not only about their future but about the futures of every single one of the students that they do not even have yet. NJSEA is about making yourself better and connecting with others that will best help you to achieve this goal. These individuals allow you to develop the skills and tools that are necessary to be an effective, compassionate, intelligent and over all well-rounded teacher. To be able to be part of such an organization is amazing and something I am truly grateful to say I am a member of. NJSEA has given me the opportunity to become an influential, passionate individual whose ultimate goal is to be a leader in my desired field of teaching. That is why I am involved.”
~Cassidy Burns, Seton Hall University
“Being involved with NJSEA is very important to me because I am dedicated to my future career and the education of students in New Jersey. With these experiences, I plan to widen my perspectives and deepen my understanding on how to be the best public school educator I can be. I also am looking for many chances to network with pre service teachers like myself. NJSEA is like a support group as we are all going through the same experiences of becoming a teacher such as, passing praxis exams, student teaching, and getting extra certifications, while passing all our required college coursework with the highest GPA we can reach.”
~Danielle Curry, Montclair State University
“NJSEA aids in creating a new image for pre service teachers- who want to better the lives of their students and create volunteer events to help the community. I want to help my community to be aware that as future Educators we can make a difference.”
~Kierstin Molnaur, Rider University
“I would tell that professor that NJSEA is a club that provides professional development, political action, many opportunities to volunteer and network, as well as community builders. NJSEA is a great resume builder for future teachers and other students. I always wanted to be a part of something bigger, and NJSEA allows me to do that because it is a part of a hierarchy with NJEA and NEA.”
~Mariane Herte, Fairleigh Dickinson University- Florham
Ever since I was young, I wanted to color the world. My life was a box of crayons, and the Earth was a coloring book. I saw the world as a muted-toned slate, and to me that remained unacceptable. I felt the world needed some sparkle, some shine, and I, a typical six-year-old, would be the very artist to take on that challenge.
I was then, and always will be, a dreamer. To me, a successful world could not remain grey. I questioned the world. Why was the stereotypical rose always red? Why were swans so commonly white? Did they have to be? That was when I held my Earth in my hand, and changed it. I created a sky that was vast and neon green, as a maroon sun shone brightly overhead. Orange birds cluttered the sky and waving crimson grass swayed in the breeze. My world was a vivid, multi-hued masterpiece to which none could compare. People often looked at my work with confusion, almost as if they had never thought of the sky as anything except light blue before, but this did not bother me. I liked my art and made a point to keep that vision with me to this day, for I know that as people grow older, they lose their world of colors.
My world has yet to fade, and as the years rapidly run by, I realize the task before me. I will share my vibrant world with whomever I may meet, and expose the world we blindly see as mere black and white. I have decided to proudly become a teacher. In the future, my students will become my canvas, and while I instill my Earth into each child, I will be able to see the rainbow in their eyes and the shine in their hearts.
As I pursue this dream, I will remember what I learned when I was six-years-old, creator of the multicolored planet. I hope my pupils will never let it go grey. To this day, my dogs are still red, my cats are still turquoise, my world is still in color- and I will be a teacher.
~Hannah Pawlak, The College of New Jersey
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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