For 12th grade students interested in pursuing a career in the field of education, an exciting CTE program begins this fall: The Academy for Educational Careers at Columbia-Greene Educational Center in Hudson. In this new class, students will study basic educational theory and practice, effective classroom management strategies, and develop knowledge and skills to address diverse learning styles, backgrounds and classroom needs. Students enrolled in this program will also have the opportunity to complete a total of 15 College in the High School credits, and will have studied the content needed to obtain a New York State Level 1 Teaching Assistant certification. Students will have job shadowing and internship experiences with teachers, as well as professionals in related careers in education such as school counselors, psychologists, occupational therapists or social workers.
Mrs. Tara Tolan, who will teach the class, is a new addition to the Questar III faculty, however she brings a wide range of knowledge and expertise that she has acquired from an extensive and varied career in education. Tolan shared some of her experience and her vision for this program in a short interview:
Tell us about some of your teaching experience. Most recently, I taught English at Cairo-Durham High School for 14 years, and before that taught middle school math and science at St. Patrick’s in Catskill. In addition, I taught for 6 years in Ireland and started my teaching career in Queens, NY. I was also an adjunct professor at Columbia-Greene Community College for Human Biology class.
Why is there a need for this program? I think high school students don’t realize the variety available to them in the education field. If they think about education, it might be about a subject or grade level, but there is so much beyond the classroom in education. The strength of this program is to show everything that is available to them.
What is most important for students to know going into a career in education? New teachers have to try to balance focusing on curriculum and also building relations with staff, faculty, students and community, which is hugely important. New teachers also need to know how to set boundaries in the classroom but at the same time, students need to know you care so you can create a safe learning environment for everyone.
What are the most important skills/qualities needed to be a successful educator? Dedication, work ethic – going beyond just what you have to teach. You need a caring nature, as kids come to the classroom with a lot weighing on their shoulders from outside school and you need to be cognizant of that. Also, to not be afraid to try new things; some will work and be great, some won’t, and that’s ok, that’s what you learn from.
What do you hope students will have learned and will take with them at the end of the year? I hope students will see the importance of teaching, and the changes that can be made by someone in education who is a part of their students’ lives. I hope they will be excited to take their eagerness to enter this career to the next level. I hope students will realize the benefits, such as there is nothing in the world like seeing a child understand something for the first time or when someone comes back to the classroom to say “thank you so much” because something you did, even something small, made a big impact.
Any additional thoughts on this program? It’s so exciting to start a new program because I can take it into so many different directions. I’m looking forward to working with students who have kind of an idea on what this career is about, and then hearing them say “Now I know I want to go into education, this is for me.”