posted March 20, 2015- written by Ashley Weselak, SOE Graduate Assistant
Katarina Silvestri always wanted to be a teacher.
During her years as an undergraduate Silvestri began to recognize the importance of having a strong understanding of the craft of teaching writing and reading. After graduation, she had quite the survey of educational experiences - teaching kindergarten, first grade, fifth grade, and college level reading and writing - before her passion for research came to fruition. Ultimately, her experiences as an educator at Niagara County Community College made her realize her strong connection to older students and pushed her to pursue a doctorate degree from the University at Buffalo.
As she seeks her PhD, Silvestri reflects on her experiences at SUNY Buffalo State, which paved the way for her many opportunities in the field of education.
Buffalo State’s well-known reputation for producing quality teachers convinced her to attend the college for her graduate work.
“I heard from cooperating teachers, colleagues, and family members that Buffalo State’s literacy program was rigorous with a focus on hands-on experience,” she says.
The faculty provided unwavering support for her personal academic goals, which complemented the high standards adhered to by the Elementary Education and Reading department. Professors encouraged Silvestri to continue striving for her best, and her efforts did not go unnoticed as she frequently participated in research endeavors and attended conferences.
Buffalo State’s literacy program in the Elementary Education and Reading department mixes ‘hands-on’ with theoretical coursework, which gave Silvestri a well-rounded understanding of how to be an effective literacy specialist. Her coursework with Ellen Friedland, associate professor, has become especially noteworthy as Silvestri continues to write quality literature reviews throughout her studies. Also, her experiences with Chris Shively, assistant professor, and Keli Garas-York, associate professor, have led Silvestri to a clearer understanding of the type of educator and researcher she aims to be.
Silvestri’s experiences in courses focused on culturally responsive teaching, taught by Jevon Hunter, assistant professor, were enriching and challenging and helped her recognize how power is situated within education. She finds this an important component for educators to consider stating, “(Power) is something I can’t help but reflect on as I think of any topic in education now, and I am grateful for this - it makes me a better teacher and researcher.”
Dr. Garas-York nominated Silvestri for the Outstanding Master’s Project award, an honor that gave her increased determination and confidence in her research and academic abilities, and extends well into her doctoral work. Although she isn’t currently teaching, Silvestri is enjoying her position as a graduate assistant, where she is able to utilize the knowledge and tools her program provides.
Buffalo State provides educational experiences beyond the campus and Katarina seized one such opportunity by participating in the International PDS-Zambia program with Hibajene Shandomo, associate professor of elementary education and reading. This intense involvement with another culture moved Silvestri, not only in terms of her academics, but also with regards to her entire ideology.
“Traveling to Africa was singlehandedly the event that changed my life and how I envision it,” Silvestri states.
She was so inspired by her time abroad that she became involved with Buffalo State’s Volunteer and Service Learning Center. The center connected Silvestri to many meaningful projects. She attained an AmeriCorps fellowship, which involved developing curriculum, teaching citizenship courses and teaching English to refugees at the Buffalo State Community Academic Center (CAC). She found this work so meaningful that, even though the fellowship has ended, she continues to work with the CAC from time to time.
Professor Hunter has become a pivotal drive in Silvestri’s future coursework and research and, despite graduating in 2013, she is still connected with him as they continue to research together.
Currently Silvestri is interested in technology use in schools, language development, and qualitative research. She endeavors to become a professor at a research university, working directly with teachers to navigate the spaces between policy, practice and theory. Further, she understands the difficulties teachers face when finding their place within a school district, specifically the issues they may face regarding policies and mandates that challenge that teacher’s own ideology. Silvestri sees discrepancies between theory, practice, and policy in the field of education and one of her future goals is to change these ineffective interactions.
From classrooms, conferences, volunteer work, and engaging communities across the world, the multiple opportunities provided by SUNY Buffalo State equipped Silvestri with the tools and knowledge to successfully take on her newest venture, a PhD from the University at Buffalo.
She is determined to challenge education in ways that will lead to the best learning environment for children.
“The end goal is to help make the world a better place, and I still believe that education can do that - but change, both on a large and small scale, needs to happen.”