"You have to be a special person to be a teacher," says Genesis McGrew SAS'13, a Communication Arts major who is also earning her certification in early childhood, childhood, and special education.
It also takes encouragement and support from mentors, a great academic program, even social experiences outside of the academic field. But actually teaching in a classroom, in front of real students, on a regular basis, is where it all comes together, McGrew says.
"It reminds me of baking a cake," she says. "You're gathering all the ingredients together in your classes. Student teaching is when you're putting it all in the oven."
While most education classes include fieldwork, student teaching is total immersion, McGrew says. It means teaching as many as four lessons in a day.
This semester, McGrew has been working every day at schools in New Rochelle, teaching a special education class of fourth- and fifth-graders, and a second-grade general education class. "It's been a growth experience," she says, noting that her supervising teacher noticed she had changed a lot from the start of the year. "I was nervous about being in front of a class," McGrew says.
The range of experiences she's had as a student teacher has bolstered her "teaching tool box," says McGrew. She has worked with bilingual classes, applied behavioral classes, autistic students, and more. "You teach all different subjects, and you get to be creative," she says. "You're prepared for whatever happens. You can tell yourself, 'I can do this. I have the skills, I have the content.'"
"It's very rewarding to give students different strategies and watch them do things they weren't able to do before."
McGrew knows now that she's always wanted to be a teacher, but she didn't always acknowledge it. "I ran away from it for a while," she says, exploring other options such as forensic science.
She looks back fondly on some of her fourth-grade teachers, but McGrew's first brush with the idea of being an educator happened in high school in New Rochelle. One of her classes was held near a preschool, where the teacher would often ask her and her friends to volunteer. They took part in activities with the children, and McGrew would eventually take on more responsibilities.
She is also a teaching assistant at her church's Sunday school, where she also provides dance instruction.
Professors at The College of New Rochelle continued to encourage McGrew to greater heights. "The Education Department is amazing," she says. "They give you so many different opportunities, and they push you." McGrew had only wanted to be certified in early childhood education, but her professors wouldn't have it. "They told me to do this, go to this class, and so on."
"They see what you probably can't see -- the potential that you have," McGrew says. The faculty also "know their stuff," keeping up with best practices, such as through the recent literacy symposium for educators at the campus center.
Extra-curricular activities will also play a part in McGrew's success as a teacher. She's been a resident assistant and student ambassador, was the vice president of her sophomore class, and has been a member of the step team, praise dance team, and choir. "It's very important, even for freshmen, to be involved," she says. "It has helped me to be strong and confident, enhanced my leadership skills, even helped me deal with parents and families."
McGrew hopes to land a teaching position after graduation while working toward a graduate degree at The College of New Rochelle, which is a second home to her. Her mom is also working on a master's degree in education and has worked in the Bursar's Office for many years.
McGrew wants to focus on literacy, the development of reading skills, particularly during early childhood. "That's when they're learning so fast. It's very rewarding."