Rebecca Oliver, '13, sat down with us to reflect on her experience at Niagara University and to discuss her new job at Burger Middle School in Henrietta, N.Y.
College of Education: Thanks for meeting with us. We heard that you landed a new teaching job. Congratulations! Where are you working?
Rebecca Oliver: I work at Burger Middle School in the Rush Henrietta School District.
COE: What grade level do you teach?
RO: I am a consultant special education teacher for 7/8 with concentrations in math and science.
COE: What degree did you receive from NU and when did you graduate?
RO: In May 2013, I received my certification in childhood and special education, 1-6. I am also certified in students with disabilities, 1-6 and 7-12, and Math, 7-12.
COE: How did NU prepare you for the job search?
RO: Senior classes helped me create resumes and cover letters and offered opportunities for mock interviews. Also, the school-sponsored job fair in Buffalo was a really helpful resource (I got my first teaching job offer there!).
COE: How did NU prepare you for success in your new position?
RO: Classes helped me to write and read IEPs, and one class even asked us to write mock letters home to parents. I still look back on and am thankful for these and other “real-world” assignments.
COE: What is your favorite part of working with your students?
RO: I love their sense of humor. I feel like I never totally grew up, so kids still make me laugh. I also love seeing when a student who typically struggles finally “gets it” and has that confidence to succeed.
COE: What advice can you give to current students pursuing a degree in special education?
RO: Get as many certifications as you can. If there’s an extension available, work toward it. Also, when you begin student teaching, try your best—put in effort! If you have to stay there later to work with the teacher to make lesson plans, make time for that. Student teaching is the closest thing you’ll have to experiencing teaching as a real job and those teachers can be used for references and letters of recommendation in the future if you work diligently.
COE: Thanks, Rebecca! Is there anything else you would like to add?
RO: Think seriously about pursuing certification extensions, if possible. I only got to where I am now because I had a math concentration and got the extensions for math 7-12 and for students with disabilities 7-12. Before I even had job experience, I had my resume picked up and looked at because I had so many certifications. Also, if you can, work as a paraprofessional during your summers. It looks amazing if you have school experience (that you don’t need a certification for). Working at BOCES is also a great experience, especially if you want to be a special education teacher.