posted May 19, 2015- written by Ashley Weselak, SOE Graduate Assistant
Katie Sclafani is an imaginative, dedicated and knowledgeable young woman who was searching for a place to demonstrate her skills.
Sclafani found her place within the Elementary Education and Reading program at Buffalo State, after some time spent at Erie Community College. During her time at Buffalo State Sclafani’s passion for the well being of children and education was enhanced. The rigorous, yet supportive, program allowed her to develop teaching methods that create effective and meaningful classroom practices.
“I went from wanting to work with children to wanting to make a difference in children’s lives,” she says.
Sclafani’s time in graduate school challenged her even further and gave her opportunities to gain experience, conduct research, and present at conferences. Sclafani states that, “Without the ‘revise and challenge’ motto embedded during graduate school, I may have become a complacent teacher after a few successful observations at my current employment. Instead I look forward to a new challenge, seek out advice, and enjoy learning new ideas to share.”
Sclafani’s position as a graduate assistant in the Elementary Education and Reading Department provided countless opportunities and learning experiences that she was able to use to further her education beyond the classroom. Most importantly, it taught her the importance of forming relationships and seeking out opportunities for professional growth. Sclafani, with influence and encouragement from EER instructor, Leslie Day, was able to present at local and national conferences. The exploration and sharing that occurs at these presentations are incredibly useful, as they provide tools and strategies to implement in the classroom. Sclafani’s passion for attending these conferences didn’t fade after graduation, she still strives to participate in conferences nationwide. The professional experiences she had as a student gave her the confidence to continue to research and share her findings.
Mrs. Day became a meaningful influence on Sclafani’s educational experience. They closely worked together throughout Sclafani’s assistantship and Mrs. Day became a strong supporter of Sclafani's work.
Sclafani states, “To say that Mrs. Day took me under her wing is an understatement…she helped me fly on my own and never took any credit, she only gave me support and praise.” Mrs. Day became a role model for Sclafani, demonstrating the care and compassion one should have for their students and their students’ potential for the future.
Sclafani took part in many projects throughout her career, and the faculty noticed her passion and dedication to improving education. In Spring 2010, she helped pilot the now well-known program, Global Book Hour. The program allows students, at any point in the program, the opportunity to engage in an educational territory and develop key learning practices. Sclafani worked alongside associate professors Kim Truesdell and Pixita Del Prado- Hill and is grateful for the mentoring she received during this period.
“I realized I was stepping into new territory, which many of my fellow graduate classmates were not yet exposed to. I was practicing coaching. Coaching is imperative in teaching…coaching students, but also coaching fellow colleagues. It is through coaching that I have learned the most and have grown as a professional. The act of coaching has separated me from someone who delivers information, from someone who teaches the information,” says Sclafani.
The program not only provided Sclafani with educational tools and experience, but another close mentorship with another faculty member, Dr. Truesdell, who became a major source of inspiration and support. “Dr. Truesdell demonstrated how to use your imagination and dream big to make a huge difference in the world,” states Sclafani, who hopes to channel the same positivity and hard work into her own teaching.
With the support of Dr. Truesdell, Sclafani also went on to present her findings at the International Literacy Association Conference (formerly known as the International Reading Association), a program that provided skills, but also fueled her inspiration and passion in the work of education.
Despite graduating, Sclafani still holds a strong connection to the Global Book Hour. She continues to participate and now coaches teacher candidates and oversees all mandatory paperwork for attending families. She is intent on sharing effective strategies with educators, and has shared the impact this program is having on the families of Buffalo’s Westside.
With the goal of continuing her education, Katie is currently exploring doctoral programs for children’s literacy. Further, she is greatly interested in developing a creative and encouraging environment for young writers, stating, “I want to tap into the writing minds of my students.” She is researching methods, specifically a writing workshop, that can be adapted into the schedule and curriculum of her class. Sclafani’s goal is to “authentically bring my students’ stories to life in the classroom.”
Sclafani believes her time at Buffalo State has shaped her to become the dedicated researcher and teacher she is today. She reflects, “I walked into Buffalo State College as someone who just wanted a degree, yet left with so much more. I was transformed by the community in my department and by my mentors.” She wants to provide this same dedication, encouragement and care for her own students.