posted November 10, 2015- written by Ashley Weselak, SOE Graduate Assistant
“I am motivated to make a difference for one of my students, even if I never find out which one it is. I think it is unrealistic to expect to be every child’s ‘favorite’ teacher and make a lasting impact on every single child’s life. However, if I can make a difference for just one kid, somewhere along the line of my career, it is worth it. We may not remember exactly what we learned in 3rd grade, but we remember who our 3rd grade teacher was and how s/he made us feel. I want my students to look back on their experience in my classroom and remember the good things I did.”
A teacher’s day changes on a regular basis, making it both a demanding and fun career choice. Candace Calkins loves the challenge that comes with teaching, always having to, “be on your toes” while also looking for possible teaching moments. She thrives on the atmosphere stating, “I love that every day is something new with different and exciting challenges. I don’t think this job could ever get boring.”
This flexibility and dedication, coupled with a passion for improving children’s lives, made Calkins’s degree choice more than just a consideration. Constant recommendations from fellow educators to attend SUNY Buffalo State drew her in and demonstrated the university’s quality reputation for teacher education. She has come to fully understand the significance of this reputation since graduating.
“Many people in the education field know that Buffalo State teacher education graduates enter the field truly ready to engage their students and schools,” she says.
Calkins believes Buffalo State’s mix of theory and practice is central to the education program’s success of producing quality teachers. Countless opportunities to experience real classroom settings are offered, whether through course activities or through one of the many students clubs available on campus. “Reading about different teaching strategies is helpful, but you really get a feel for what your teaching style is and what works for you when put into those positions through different internships over the course of the program,” Calkins reflects.
Although Buffalo State prepares students with plenty of practical experience, the idea of student teaching may still cause apprehension for those about to take on a semester’s worth of full-time teaching. Fortunately, the caring nature of our teacher-education programs allows students to find support from their peers and faculty. Calkins found that having a set time to meet with fellow teacher-candidates allowed her to discuss ways to improve her student-teaching experience, while also providing her the benefit of advice and guidance from an experienced faculty member.
Calkins believes that Buffalo State’s faculty support is continuous, going beyond classroom courses. She was exceptionally inspired by her student teaching supervisor, Sally Weidler, and states that Dr. Weidler “had high expectations and motivated us to work hard to meet those expectations. Student teaching can be very overwhelming when you are still trying to figure out your own teaching style while also trying not to mess with the mentor teacher’s routines, Dr. Weidler was a good advocate for us and helped us manage all the situations that arose during that time.”
Teachers undergo plenty of stress, but Calkins wants to assure future teachers that it is normal to have rough days and to feel overwhelmed.
“It seems as though every time I feel I’ve got a handle on things, something changes and I am back to feeling unsure of myself. Students want to be defiant, parents think you are the bad guy, your meeting runs late and you didn’t leave enough plans for a sub, the copier breaks when you need an important letter to go home, all these things happen and are normal, but can definitely be stressful and challenging. I sometimes have felt as though teaching is the only profession where you have to be on your A-game 100 percent of the time before you even know which game you are playing. But, the challenge is well worth the rewarding aspects of the job.”
Calkins elaborates further about the stress that comes with balancing a large group of students. It can be overwhelming, especially when behavioral issues ensue, but teachers must see beyond the superficiality of the issue to reach the student’s needs. She advises, “Love every single child in your classroom for who they are. It is easy to forget how important that is sometimes when there are a few certain kids who love to push your buttons, but those are the kids that need your love and encouragement the most.”
Calkins embodies the notion that compassion, flexibility and patience are all ingredients of a great teacher. Flexibility not only with student behaviors, but with regards to location as well. Calkins attended Buffalo’s annual Teacher Recruitment Day simply expecting to gain interview experience, but she walked away with several job offers to teach in other states. She decided to accept an offer in Virginia and was immediately given the special education inclusive room, a daunting task for a first-year teacher with limited experience in exceptional education. Calkins powered through the year and found it to be an incredible learning experience. She states, “I never would have imagined myself in this position last year. I am a true believer that everything happens for a reason and works out in the end, it is just important to keep patience along the wild roller coaster ride that gets you to where you are supposed to be.”
With that kind of optimism, it is no wonder that Calkins was voted her school’s Novice Teacher of the Year.
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