GLASSBORO – On Tuesday, high school students participating in the Rowan Urban Teaching Academy program were visited by special guests – the teachers in their lives who most inspired them to explore a future career in education.
âToday we’re hosting an event based on the Oprah show,â said Steve Farney, assistant dean of Rowan University’s College of Education. âRUTA applicants had to write a letter about the teachers who inspired them, and then we invited those teachers to this surprise event for RUTA students. They come in and talk about what it’s like to be a teacher, the pros and cons of working, and they answer a few questions. It is a wellness event because the teachers are flattered and the students are delighted when they show up.
RUTA is a two-week academy where high school students across the state can gain insight into the teaching profession, particularly in urban education. Today the students go to Lanning Square Elementary School in Camden to meet the children they will be working with, then return to Rowan to read to the daycare students. On Thursday they will be in Camden all day working with the Lanning Square children and next week they will accompany the Camden children on a trip to the Franklin Institute before bringing them to the Rowan campus to participate in the learning activities they have designed.
âThis is a wonderful opportunity because it exposes students to the field of education and creates a desire to be a teacher,â said Farney. âIt’s a semi-formal training that focuses on parts of our undergraduate program. “
In Education Hall’s multipurpose room, RUTA’s 26 students watched a slideshow of what makes great teachers different from great teachers. And then the surprise show started.
From the hallway, each teacher spoke about the student who named him, without revealing any names. When the students recognized the voices of their inspiring teachers, they stood up to greet them with big smiles, hugs, and even a few tears of joy. The students were then invited to share a few words about their favorite teachers.
âShe’s like a mother to me – hardworking, dedicated, gentle and sincere,â said Alicia Santiago, 17, of her voice teacher Suzzette Ortiz at Creative Arts High School in Camden.
“She inspired me to become a teacher because she is still so passionate about the subject she teaches, she makes children love because she loves it”, said Melanie Fernandes, 17, of her teacher. Laura James of Bridgewater High School. “She was always so upbeat and told the story like it was a story that made her so much fun for me.”
A student even went back a few years to identify her favorite teacher.
âShe was my kindergarten and kindergarten teacher,â said Shambria Merrill, 17, of Carol Small-Smith of South Main Street School in Pleasantville. âShe taught me good manners – how to wipe my face and not put my elbows on the table – and when I cried she always made sure I was okay. She has always been my favorite teacher.
The teachers – in panel form – then spoke about some of their experiences in the profession.
When asked how they came to be teachers, responses varied. Ortiz was an injured pianist who began teaching in a choir in Puerto Rico. knew he wanted to be a teacher since first grade.
Asked about the most memorable moments, Shelley Petrozza – who now teaches at Glassboro – recalled a student in Egg Harbor Township who named her baby sister after her favorite teacher. As to how they’ve had to adjust their teaching techniques over the years, Hutchinson said he had to learn about computers and technology.
The teachers also offered advice.
âI love what you do,â Small-Smith said. âI consider it a privilege to do what I do. If you’re there for some other reason, don’t. Children admire you and want to be like you.
Andrea Baptist, a teacher at Deptford High School, advised new teachers to be themselves.
âYou can’t pretend, you just have to be you,â Baptiste said. âYour students are your audience, your clients and your family.