Even if working as an educator runs in the family, how to get there isn’t always the same. Brian Bartalo comes from a family of teachers, and because of his own experiences he became one himself. His path to becoming an educator started when he worked with special needs children at the Genesee Valley Rotary Camp, teaching swimming lessons, and coaching youth in his homestown of Dansville, New York. Looking back, and because of these experiences, Bartalo feels that Buffalo State was the perfect choice. “My love of teaching was confirmed during my time at Buffalo State. All the experiences I had from the the professors, the classes, the field and frequent field experiences provided me the hands-on experience I wanted and needed to affirm my career choice.”
Now the Principal at Hilton High School in Hilton, New York, Bartalo has added to his educational experience over the years. Bartalo worked as a middle school special education teacher from 1988-1999 while he also coached the varsity swim and football team at Hilton Middle School. Teaching and working with special needs students was natural to Bartalo, as that is what the Genesee Valley Rotary Camp was all about. “GVRC is a camp for children with disabilities and special needs. I’ve worked at the camp since 1981, when I started as a lifeguard. I’ve been the camp director since 1999. Despite the pressure that comes with meeting state standards and being a school principal, Bartalo has fun with the work he does. “I love the daily challenges associated with my job. My favorites aspects include mentoring good teachers with their craft and mostly working with and interacting with kids every day.”
Buffalo State has played an important part in Bartalo’s career, including the opportunity to better his leadership skills by getting involved and making a difference on campus. “My many and varied experiences at Buffalo State prepared me not only for my time as a Special Education teacher, but also as a leader. Living and learning provided me with a dynamic and rich experience that I wouldn’t have had at other colleges.” During his time at Buffalo State College, Bartalo was a R.A in Tower 3 for 2 years, a student senator for 2 years in the United Student Government, and was the single student member, representing the entire campus, on the College Council. “These were outstanding opportunities that provided me with knowledge and insight into both government and economics, but also for leadership development. I had a lot of fun during my time in U.S.G, learned a lot and made a lot of friends.”
Anyone who attends college to pursue their career finds themselves writing their own story. Bartalo finds that there were a handful of memorable stories from his time at Buffalo State. “There are so many...however there was a course I had to take my first semester at Buffalo State. It was like an introduction to teaching course.” The course Bartalo is describing had him and his peers meet every week on Fridays, and work with students. They were required to teach the students a concept or topic involving logic. “It was a challenge, but the kids loved it and we had a good time planning really innovative and fun ways to teach the topic and work with the students.” Bartalo feels that this was a great way for college students to get a feel for their interest in the field of education.
Bartalo says that what stood out to him most was a realization about teaching that wasn’t mainstream until after it occurred to him while in college. “All students should be included. We emphasized inclusive education, even in the 1980’s before it was really accepted in many areas. It was inspiring to me to see many leaders in our field emphasize that we needed to advocate for all students, regardless of their situation or needs.” It’s no surprise that Bartalo would take this idea very seriously, as much of his career has involved working with students who require additional support in the classroom. With the added needs comes a new challenge, but Bartalo welcomes it. “Challenge motivates me and so does working with others. I truly enjoy the collaborative process. I’m motivated by doing the right things that really matter to kids.” Relationships in schools, between teachers and students are an important motivation to Bartalo, and he feels as if it makes the teaching and learning that occurs that much more effective. “I’m motivated by creative, innovative people who work hard. Finding ways to provide all students with a meaningful and relevant learning experience, every day, is important to me too.”
Despite the accomplishments that he has completed, Bartalo isn’t done just yet. He loves his position as the Hilton High School Principal, but he may go further. ‘I completed the NYS Superintendent Development Program recently and although I love my position as Hilton HS Principal, I will consider future opportunities to advance my career at a central office level, possibly as a district superintendent.” Bartalo has also considering going back to school in order to obtain his doctorate, but hasn’t fully committed as of yet. Through all of his hard work, Bartalo knows what it takes to succeed. “It takes dedication and a deep commitment to do what’s best for students first. It also takes creativity and not being afraid to try new things. It takes the willingness to work with others and be an effective communicator. It also take a sense of humor and the desire to make learning engaging, meaningful and fun.”
“Because of Buffalo State I was prepared!”