Alumna Profile: Justine Porcelli (’09)

Profile by Jessika Charvis

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Justine Porcelli, ’09

Who is Justine Porcelli?

Justine Porcelli is a Pace University alumna. She enjoys reading, traveling, cooking, restaurant exploring, being with loved ones, and jet skiing!

She majored in English and Spanish but then changed to Childhood Education and specialized in Literacy. She has always loved school as a child. Her little sister, who is twelve years younger than Justine, would always struggle with school. Justine loved being around her when she was a little girl, and that’s one of the many reasons why she went into the education field.

When asked about her experiences in the English field she had said that she traveled to Cambridge, England over the summer and she was able to study Shakespeare. She shared with me that English is everywhere (for example, movies, books, people, etc.). She also said that education has helped her see what people need instead of just judging them first hand. And another benefit of going into the education field is enjoying a snow day or two!

Her Career

Justine praised Pace University because the school set her up with her student teaching position. The school that she taught in while she was at Pace University ended up hiring her.

Today, Justine is a  literacy specialist specifically for the dual language & bilingual classrooms in her school. She has taught a total of seven years in her district. She teaches children the skills they need to succeed.  She also teaches them about themselves—their strengths and weaknesses. She believes that  knowing about yourself is important in life. That is the most important thing that she teaches her students. She shared with me that she loves all her students and whenever they smile they make her feel good about her work.

Her Advice To Future Teachers

Justine shared with me one of her experiences as a student. She said that she had a Professor that made her feel great about her work. He cared about all students as people and he really impacted her life. He was dedicated and passionate.  She said that she is sure that he taught his students when he was a public school teacher with the same care and love that she received in her higher education. Justine is inspired by him daily and has benefited from his presence in her  life at Pace University tremendously.

Justine’s advice to students in the education field is simple: get a lot of experience working with students. She said to pace yourself and give yourself a break sometimes because it is better for the students if you are less stressed, well rested, and prepared!

 

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Alumni Profile: Sarah Niez (’12)

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Sarah Niez (’12)

Profile by: Katie Bevilacqua (’20)

Who is Sarah Niez?

Sarah is a teacher’s aide in the Bronxville school district where she is doing what she loves every day.

Sarah has known she has wanted to be a teacher since she was young. Therefore, she decided to studied Childhood Education with a concentration in English during her time at Pace:

“Literature was always open for interpretation and had the ability to spark great dialogues….I enjoyed writing and being able to express what was on my mind or arguing a point with research and evidence.”

After undergraduate work here at Pace she went on to complete her masters here as well while teaching in a school as an aide. In her free time Sarah enjoys reading, cooking, spending time with friends and family, spending time at the beach, and traveling.

Why Pace?

Sarah started her schooling at the University of Massachusetts but they did not have the program she was looking for. She liked the childhood education program Pace had to offer. She also liked the size of Pace and the location. She was close enough to home but also still close to the city and other areas of interest.

Sarah has had many accomplishments but is most proud of keeping her grades up and being on the Dean’s list each semester. This showed her that she could do anything she set her mind to.

Benefits of an Education Background

Having a background in education not only helps you in a classroom but also helps you understand and work with all types of people outside the classroom as well. She states she has learned to understand that every kid is different and as a teacher you need to work through this with them in order to get through to them. In the case of interacting with adults, this background can also help you. Sarah states

“Adults are big kids, so understanding how different and unique their life experiences are, mixed with the diverse ways they learn/ interpret information, is key in being tolerant and having patience towards others.”

Sarah is currently working as teacher’s aide in the Bronxville school district. She hopes to move on and hopefully have her own classroom soon so she can continue to grown and flourish as an individual. Sarah loves her profession so much because it is truly rewarding every day. She plans to continue to grow as an individual and get as much experience as possible so she can soon move onto her next stage in her profession.

Advice to Future Educators

Sarah stresses the idea that getting experience in many different settings can be very helpful to the growth of an individual studying to be a teacher.

Pace Profile: Dr. Beth Gordon

Profile by Paige Touse (’20)

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Dr. Beth Gordon

“English Majors can do anything”

Pursuing a Passion

Beth Gordon always knew what her passion was and what she wanted to do with her life. Even in her younger years, Beth enjoyed reading and writing. She liked making connections with themes and books and to the current events in her world. Despite the fact that it was popular to be an undecided major at the time Beth entered college, she already knew she wanted to be an English Major.

Beth attended Binghamton University for her undergraduate degree. She took any and all classes pertaining to literature while in college whether it be the “Psychology of Literature” or the “Literature of World War Two.” Beth then moved on to University of Albany for her Masters in an English-focused Education degree. After graduation, she made her way to Mahopac to teach.

Trials of Teaching

At Mahopac High School, Beth taught an array of English classes from normal Regents levels to the more rigorous Honors courses. Oddly enough, Beth found that teaching wasn’t always about the material. She stated that it was “much less about the literature and writing and a lot more about the social issues they are facing today.”

Beth easily saw a connection to the skills she learned from her English major to how she should teach her students:

“Learning how to teach is basically learning how to negotiate and motivate and communicate.”

These are skills that she sees as being integral to the English degree and very transferable to other fields.

From Teaching to Tech

While teaching her students, Beth noticed that there wasn’t always a strong connection between the material she taught and the interest of her pupils. There was only one instance when she felt they were invested in their work:

“I found that when I was able to get the kids most engaged in their writing was when I brought them to a computer lab.”

This became the turning point in her career as she “saw the power of what a computer could do for teaching.” It was then that Beth decided to return to school in the hopes of receiving a Ph.D. in Academic Technology.

With this new degree, she wanted to work in a college environment. Pace would soon be her home for her Academic Technology career. While attending Walden, an online university, Beth worked many jobs throughout Pace. She started as an adjunct and then moved on to teach writing courses and work in Admissions. Eventually, Beth settled herself in Dyson College at Pace as an Academic Advisor while finishing her Ph.D.

After receiving her Ph.D., Beth become incorporated in the Dean’s department as director of Academic Technology.

Benefits from Books

Despite the jump from an English and Teaching degree to Technology degree, Beth still uses more aspects of an English Major than one might guess. As the director of Academic Technology, Beth is constantly researching in order to find new teaching techniques with technology and persuade faculty to use such technology or even try to get funding for certain projects. In order to achieve theses requirements of her job she must use her “ability to read critically and write thoughtfully and extract themes and create proposals,” all of which comes from her English background.

Beth described the benefits have having an English degree not only in her current job but in her everyday life. The skills both taught and learned from an English Major opens the door to many fields. It’s a versatile major:

 “I feel like my English Major has been a real asset to me in lots of different fields…What I learned as an English Major about how to communicate, analyze, problem solve, has been completely transferable to my work in IT.”

Ultimately, the only advice Beth had for those of us who are currently working on our English degrees is something that isn’t specific to us but is to be said to everyone. Her advice is that it is, “Important to follow your passions and study what motivates you but continue to stay open minded about your career and opportunities ahead. I think that English majors can do anything.”

It is because of her passion for English that Beth finds herself in a career she thoroughly enjoys and would never had expected to be in.

Alum Profile: Nora Rugova (’13, ’14)

Profile by Jamie Soldinger (’20)

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Nora Rugova (’13, ’14)

Nora Rugova is a Pace University Alumni.  She earned her Master’s in Special Education from Pace in 2013.  Nora was also part of the Women’s Volleyball Team, where she set records for both Pace itself and the NE10 Conference.  Nora is in her 3rd season as Assistant Coach for the Pace University Women’s Volleyball Team.  She is also a Special Education teacher at Church Street School, which is a public elementary school and part of the White Plains City school district.

Why Pace? 

Academically, Nora explained,  “I liked the five-year program.” Nora was also on a volleyball scholarship to come to Pace. Pace became a perfect location for Nora, being close to home and also in the neighborhood she later wanted to teach in. It seemed like the perfect fit.

Nora explained that teaching was definitely her first choice of majors. Even though at times she started to second guess teaching, “In college, especially before student teaching started, I thought about changing my major to some sort of business, because all of my older friends were getting these super cool internships.” However, she knew teaching was for her once she began her student teaching.  Student teaching also became the most influential part of college for Nora:

“There’s so much you can learn in the classroom.”

Overcoming Obstacles    

When picking a major, students will always have outsiders trying to persuade them to switch their major. Nora explained, “At times it was very, very difficult. However, once I got into the classroom (for student teaching) and actually started working with students, I was so happy that I wasn’t even thinking about what others were saying.”  Nora said that her favorite part of being in the classroom where all of the “light bulb” moments, where “it becomes very easy to realize you’re in the right profession and you’re helping children grow.”

Mentors

Even though Nora was an Education Major, her concentration was in English.  Throughout her experience at Pace she had two wonderful professors, who she still keeps in contact with today.  These two professors are Dr. Maxam and Professor Walker.

“Being an educator is about molding minds and always being there.  These two individuals did and still do exactly that.”

Nora also said that these two taught with such “heart and passion” and that their teachings made you want to become a teacher to teach just like them.

Advice to Future Teachers

 As you go through your college career, teaching seems to be a lot of work, Nora explained.  “At times, it’s more work than you think you can handle but it is absolutely worth it.”  Nora stressed the fact to stick with teaching.  Many teachers do not realize that they “have the ability to turn a student’s day, week, even life around.”

Faculty Profile: Dr.Francine Falk-Ross

Profile by Amy Venusio (’19)

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Dr. Francine Falk-Ross

Who is Dr.Falk-Ross?

Dr. Falk-Ross is a literacy specialist who fell in love with being a speech therapist. She preferred to work in the education setting and got a full time job with speech and language for 8 years. Most of the work she was doing was literacy: helping with the language, how to read, the language when reading books, and how to write.

After getting her Master’s she decided that she wanted to know and do more. She then went to get her doctorate in curriculum with a concentration of reading. In 2008 she came to Pace and became a full-time professor. She is in charge of the literacy specialist graduate program.

Who influenced her?

Dr.Falk-Ross was influenced by her graduate teacher, Christine Pappas, who was in the doctoral program. Dr. Pappas drove Dr. Falk-Ross to understand classroom discourse. She learned the way you ask questions is very important to how students respond. Dr. Pappas showed Dr. Falk-Ross how to write and more of what she knows today.

Career highlights?

Instead of having students get pulled out of the classroom to support their literacy needs, Dr. Falk-Ross wanted all students in the class. Even students with different backgrounds and especially second language students belong in the same classroom.

Dr. Falk-Ross wrote a book called Classroom-Based Language and Literacy Intervention: A Programs and Case Studies Approach. She also worked as a research professor in Illinois and was an assistant professor in Northern Illinois.  

Advice she has for future teachers?

Dr. Falk-Ross says to find something that you really like to do, and find a focus within that field.

For future educators, she said that when you’re in a regular classroom to keep a focus because the school may need your perspective and expertise to do programs. She also recommends getting your graduate degree: “You learn a lot more in grad school than undergrad.” From there you will be able to understand more and move forward successfully.