By Vinny Cassarino
Ellen Donahue and Kristen Carroccia are among several teachers at Rocky Hill High School who are taking courses at a local college to improve their teaching and advance their careers.
English teacher Ms. Donahue currently attends Southern Connecticut State University to obtain her degree in Educational Leadership after six years of college.
Math teacher Kristen Carroccia has also been attending Southern Connecticut State University to increase her educational degree.
Teachers that have been taking classes have a different approach on teaching due to experiencing learning from a student’s perspective.
A student perspective has changed teachers’ philosophy on the best way for a student to learn new information.
In addition, a student’s perspective has given insight for teachers, such as Ellen Donahue, on how to keep her students entertained and learning to high standards.
Donahue’s current educational purpose is to learn more about becoming a leader, such as a principal.
A teacher that teaches K-12 is not required to obtain a master’s degree in order to keep their certification in teaching. Therefore, Donahue chose to attend college in order to improve her degree and teaching skills.
Donahue and other teachers in Connecticut teaching K-12 need to renew their teaching license every five years, otherwise they will expire.
Despite the class’s leadership position purpose, she has directly used the information in her classroom.
“The information and skills that we are learning can easily be applied to my role as a teacher,” Donahue says.
Donahue has recently obtained a Master’s degree in Curriculum and Instruction with a focus on the technology aspect of teaching.
“This degree definitely helped to improve my teaching and allowed me to become a more effective teacher,” Donahue said.
This is Donahue’s second masters. Her first degree taught her how to involve technology in her classroom in order to help students reach their academic potential.
Donahue said that being a student in college and a teacher does add stress to her daily life, but it is worth it.
Donahue said, “Furthering our education is important. If the opportunity presented itself and if it was the right time for that person in their life, then I would say that going back to school is a positive experience.”
Kristen Carroccia is also working towards a degree in educational leadership.
Carroccia is attending Southern Connecticut State University to obtain an educational certification needed to become a vice principal, principal or curriculum leader.
A typical educational leadership course will take an average of between one or two years to complete, depending on the amount of classes taken per semester.
Carroccia has the goal to increase her level of certification, but, being in school has tied back into her classroom, she said.
“Just being in classes has allowed me to have professional conversations with other teachers – which allows for reflection, in return bettering my teaching,” Carroccia said.
For example, by being a student herself, Carroccia has learned that the best way for a student to learn is through teaching another student.
She said she has learned that humans retain 95 percent of what they are taught by teaching that skill to someone else and only 10 percent of what they read.
Therefore, Carroccia said she has been able to use these facts from college and apply them to her own classroom.
For instance, Carroccia has incorporated more group work to her lesson plans for more efficient student learning.
Carroccia said, “I do my best to plan out my time to make sure that everything can get done but I’ll admit I’m not able to get everything done as quickly as I would like since I do need to get my coursework done as well.”
However, Carroccia said that the increased workload has been well worth it and has benefitted her and her students.
Carroccia said she encourages other teachers to go back to school because it will positively affect their teaching.
“It gives me the opportunity to work with teachers from other school districts and really think about things from a whole school level, not just student to teacher,” she said.