Niagara University has thoroughly prepared me to be a successful and effective teacher. There are countless ways in which this has happened; however I will outline what I believe to be the greatest influences here:
- FIELD EXPERIENCE – The best part of training in any field is on-the-job experience. Starting with the second week of my freshman year at Niagara, I was out in a classroom observing and teaching in local schools. During the interim period before beginning student teaching, students accrue 160 hours of experience in classrooms with real students. We had the opportunity to get experience in many different settings with students, whether it be with kindergartners or high schoolers. Also, NU students get to see what education actually is. Theory and research is great and all, however, practicality is also part of what teachers need to understand in order to be successful. Let’s be realistic here: we are teaching 20-125 different human beings each and every day once we get into the field – teachers need to keep the human element in mind when planning and guiding students through learning activities.
- DEDICATED PROFESSORS – Students at any level cannot be successful without guides and mentors. Niagara has very dedicated professors who truly care about their students. Our professors model what prospective teachers will be expected to do and they adhere to the highest standards of professionalism. They also incorporate “real world of teaching” practices into classes, especially by discussing current issues and debates going on in the field. These individuals are at the forefront of educational research and are each distinguished professionals in their own right.
- TEACHER PREPARATION – Students in New York State are required to take and pass several teacher certification exams in order to attain New York State certification. (For me, as a double major in social studies and mathematics for grades 5-12, I had to take 4 exams in addition to the edTPA, the Teacher Performance Assessment.) Niagara does a very good job of preparing students to pass these exams on the first try. Niagara’s passing rates on these examinations are miles ahead of other teacher preparatory programs in New York State.
- PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES – Niagara provides students with many diverse opportunities for professional development, even as pre-service teachers. Such examples include conducting research with professors (usually not offered at the undergraduate level) and attending national conferences. In fact, 47 percent of Niagara’s undergraduates engage in some aspect of research with a professor while working on their undergraduate degree. The professors love working with students and a unique perspective is provided when researching educational trends and policy. Due to the numerous connections our professors have, students are given opportunities to present at and attend professional conferences and make connections in the field.
- REPUTATION – The final piece I would like to reflect upon is reputation. Schools around the United States recognize and appreciate the type of teachers Niagara produces. In fact, many schools contact the dean of the College of Education, Dr. Chandra Foote, inquiring about recent graduates and recommendations for filling open positions. These include K-12 schools in the Western New York area, as well as, many other places around the United States, including Houston, Texas, and Boca Raton, Florida, just to name a few. School administrators know that Niagara graduates are more prepared and more resourceful than those from most other programs.
For all of these reasons, and many more, I decided to attend Niagara University and I am very happy that I did. I am confident that I will be a successful and effective educator and I believe that starts with the preparation and education I received at Niagara University.