Alumnus, Graduate Student Lands Dream Job as an English/Special Education Teacher Wednesday, October 14, 2015
Meet Robert Michael
Job title: English/Special Education Teacher
Employer: Moon Area High School
Degree earned: B.A. and dual certification in Secondary Education English and Special Education, 2014
Scholarships: Transfer Presidential Scholarship
College activities: Future Educators of America
Degree pursuing: M.A. in Curriculum and Instruction with a concentration in Teaching and Leadership
Expected graduation: May 2016
Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.
High school: Baldwin High School
Now living in: Brookline neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pa.
Hobbies/interests: Musical theatre, Steelers, reading, writing, traveling and exploring other cultures
How did you land your teaching position with Moon Area High School?
Oddly enough, the reason I was able to obtain an interview, which is half the battle in education, was due to my student teaching placement at Bethel Park High School. Moon Area High School was in need of a special education/English teacher with "highly qualified" status so the principal at Moon sent out an email to other principals in the Pittsburgh region asking for recommendations. I worked closely with the director of special education at Bethel Park, so when she saw the email she immediately urged me to apply. From there, I went through a fairly intensive interview process. During the final round, I was told that Dr. Jansante, the principal at Bethel Park, highly recommended me for the position. The rest is history!
Why did you choose Point Park University to pursue a degree in secondary education?
Let me start off by saying that I was a nontraditional student. My decision to seek teaching credentials didn't come until I was 28 years old, living in New York City and working in the human resources field. When I decided to move back to Pittsburgh, I began my course work at another local university. I was very displeased with the lack of connection to the professors, delivery of content and the school overall, which prompted me to shop around for other universities that offered teacher preparation programs.
As a lover of all things theatre, I looked into transferring to Point Park. It was when Transfer Counselor Deb Bateman personally called me to discuss the options that Point Park could offer me that I decided to apply. Deb told me that the professors worked in the field of education and could provide me with real-world experience, and she was right! She also informed me about Point Park's secondary education special education dual certification program. Knowing the condition of the job market, I immediately jumped at the opportunity and it was the best decision I made.
Why did you decide to return to Point Park for a master's degree?
My sole reason for returning to Point Park, aside from the school's reputation in the education community, was my experience during my teacher preparation program. My student teaching experience was one of the best experiences of my life! From day one, I truly felt as though I had found what it is I was supposed to do with my life - and Point Park found the best possible location for me to do that!
Other universities in the area simply say your placement will be in a school within 40 miles of your zip code, but not Point Park. Instructor Denise Beverina-Moore ensured me that I would have a placement that fit my personality, teaching style and would grant me the best possible exposure to the realities of being a teacher. She ensured that my mentors were the top teachers in their fields and that I would truly walk away with practical knowledge.
When I think back to where I first started my teacher preparation program at a different university, I can say with the utmost confidence that if I were to call or email any of those professors, they wouldn't know my name or remember who I was. However, at Point Park, I am willing to bet that my professors in both the English and education departments, will not only remember who I am, but know me as "Rob" and "Student: Robert Michael."
What do you enjoy most about teaching and what is the most challenging?
It's truly hard to capture in words the enjoyment I get out of teaching. As a young boy, I was always fascinated with the different genres of literature. For me, it was an escape into an alternate reality. I always promised myself that if I was ever granted the opportunity to teach literature I would go above and beyond to make myself memorable to my students. The most enjoyable part of teaching is being able to watch kids think. I am able to go down a path of intellectual growth with them and that's a powerful thing.
The most challenging part, for me, is creating a work/life balance. I look at being a teacher as the most important job in the entire world as it is the foundation for all other occupations. Therefore, I probably spend a bit more time on my own workload than I do on my personal life. As both an English and special education teacher, there is a lot, and I do mean a lot, of paperwork involved. Whether it's writing IEPs or grading research papers, the paperwork is overwhelming. However, whenever I do feel overwhelmed, I simply remind myself that I am responsible for the education of the kids - and then the excitement takes over and completely eliminates the feeling of being overwhelmed.
As a new teacher, how have your Point Park classes helped you?
Point Park set me up for success in the real world. Other universities just hand students a book saying, "Okay, now answer the questions and take the test." That's not how adults learn. What makes Point Park's education department unique is that the professors deliver the content and then help the students determine what they need to know.
Additionally, the relationships I developed with the faculty at Point Park put my mind at ease going into my new role. Instructor Beverina-Moore made sure that my spirits were high going into interviews, Dr. Gutkind helped me to develop a classroom management plan that works and I still connect with Dr. Wheat when I need guidance on sticky situations. I know that the Point Park education faculty members are always there to help.
What are your career goals?
As of right now, I have my dream job. I'm currently assisting in the fall production of You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown, and eventually I would love to become the head of the drama club. As for my own education, I'd eventually like to pursue a doctoral degree, but stay in the classroom. I'd love to become an adjunct professor at a university at some point and teach the future educators of America.
Your final thoughts?
When a new teacher steps foot into his or her own classroom, they need to be prepared - and Point Park did just that for me! I'd also like to say that Point Park's English department is top notch. The level of intellect among the faculty is mind-boggling. I teach American Literature to 11th graders, and I model my lectures after Dr. Weston's course. With only a month into school, I already have students telling me that they never thought they'd enjoy Puritan poetry this much. I am a proud alumnus and graduate student, and who knows, maybe I'll be receiving a doctoral degree from Point Park as well!