posted May 26, 2015- written by Ashley Weselak, SOE Graduate Assistant
From a young age, Judy Bradbury knew she was meant to be a teacher.
Bradbury started training for her career in education long before applying to colleges; from playing school in a pretend classroom in her basement as a child, to volunteering as a CCD instructor at a Catholic school as a teenager, to continuing this path into her college career and accepting a teaching position at the campus College Learning Lab.
Bradbury began her work with teacher-training through the Lab, which became the foundation of her teaching career. “The years I spent at the College Learning Lab* were unrivaled in what they taught me and the opportunities for growth they offered me. They grounded my teaching career,” she says. Under the direction and guidance of Dr. Richard Collier and Dr. Herb Furash, Judy was able to immediately implement the tools and skills she learned during her university years. This mentorship gave Bradbury and her team the chance for innovation within educational practices, and an opporunity to work alongside the college’s teacher prep program. Bradbury was already becoming a major influence on teacher preparation.
Always an avid reader, Bradbury understands how important it is that children develop a passion for reading at a young age. But it was a course, Teaching Adolescent Literature, that opened her eyes to the need for quality and challenging texts with which students should connect. Encouraging an interest in reading is one goal for a teacher, but encouraging the student to also engage in challenging their literacy levels is essential. Teaching Adolescent Literature prepared Bradbury for more than just classroom teaching.
“I believe my courses on younger children’s literature sparked my interest in evaluating the merits of/reviewing children’s literature, which is a big part of what I do now in my professional books for educators, my consultancy work, and as a children’s book reviewer,” says Bradbury.
There is something that can’t be taught in teacher-preparation programs -- how to build trust and caring relationships with students. Bradbury, inspired by her own supportive professors, believes this to be one of the most important assets to teaching. Her happiest memories of teaching are when her most challenging students broke down their tough exteriors, demonstrated noticeable trust in her, and saw meaning in her teaching.
Bradbury reflects on her decisions to work with these students, “I remember once when I was teaching high school remedial readers and writers, my department chair wanted to assign me a coveted ‘superior’ English course because she didn’t feel I could last teaching all those remedial courses all day long. She held out the plum. I demurred. Anyone could teach the motivated students who loved learning—heck, I was one of those!—but finding a way to inspire those who found no joy in coming to school was a meaningful challenge to me. She insisted, and I accepted the plum. I enjoyed working with those ‘superior’ students, but when the year was over, I asked to return to a full slate of remedial classes. I got them.”
Building trust and relationships between teachers and students isn’t a measurable objective, but it is incredibly powerful in the educational experience of our students.
Over the years, since graduating from Buffalo State, Bradbury has held a wide variety of teaching positions and now works with the training of teachers through authorship and leadership in professional development programs. Her motivation and dedication to empowering children and parents through literacy is clearly demonstrated through the successes she has had in her career, both within the classroom and in the world of professional writing.
Bradbury’s continuing commitment to improving the world of education is prevalent in her advice for the young teachers she works with: "All teachers must have a passion for education. If you want to be a teacher you need to have a ‘fire in your gut.’ Teachers reach, teach, and touch our future. You have to be all in.”
Bradbury believes that this dedication is essential to the field, not just to be a successful teacher but because children deserve to have committed teachers with purpose. She asserts that, “Impacting the lives of children is no small task; and making a difference in the lives of children provides no greater sense of satisfaction and purpose.”
According to Bradbury, it is important to remember the significant objectives of education, which can sometimes be lost in the noise and clamor within the field. She fights against distractions, and works to encourage teachers to stay focused on the fundamentally important aspects of teaching. Simultaneously, she aims to restore hope and enthusiasm in teachers who feel that they are becoming burnt-out, discouraged, or overwhelmed by new changes in the field. “When I conduct professional development workshops, my goal is to reignite the fire and to empower educators. I want to remind them of the point, the purpose, and the desired results,” she says.
A teacher's constant care and connection with individuals can influence chains of reactions that go well beyond the classroom. Overall, Judy Bradbury understands the impact teaching can have on others, in small and large ways.
“I love teaching because it’s a visible and vital way to make a difference—in our society, and on a more immediate level, in the lives of those we teach.”
*Note: Bradbury dedicated the fourth book in her Children’s Book Corner series (ABC/CLIO), the read-aloud resource for fifth and sixth grade, to the children “who were members of my fifth-and sixth-grade class at the College Learning Laboratory on the SUNY College of Buffalo campus, with thanks for what they taught me in our time together. Angela, Verdell, Robert, Sandra, Mary Beth, Victor, all of you…I remember.” She states, “They made a difference in my life; I hope I made a difference in theirs.”
Check out Bradbury’s latest release: Empowering Families: Practical Ways to Involve Parents in Boosting Literacy (Routledge, 2015). “Susan Busch and I have provided educators with the means and materials to provide programming that will build, strengthen, and support a sustained, healthy connection between school and home. Parents and caregivers are powerful and vital links in literacy—the foundation of school success—and we need to enlist their support in the education of our children. “