posted September 22, 2015- written by Ashley Weselak, SOE Graduate Assistant
“Each and every person in the world has a different perspective, different beliefs, and different values; I find this unbelievably exciting. I can teach the same lesson to a group of students four times in one day, and never have the exact same discussion twice. What I love most about what I do, is that I am in the position to be a perpetual learner. As much as I am in the classroom to teach students, they continue to teach me in so many unimaginable ways.”
Madison Ackerman knew Buffalo State was the right choice for her educational pursuits. Having graduated with a degree in English Education, she felt it was natural to enroll into the graduate literacy specialist program. The competitive acceptance rate and intimate classes for this rigorous program were major incentives for her decision to stay at Buffalo State. Ackerman states, “As a teacher, I value being able to have a personal relationship with my own students and therefore wanted the same experience with my instructors at SUNY Buffalo State; having smaller class sizes and a smaller cohort enabled this.”
Building relationships with students is key to creating an authentic learning environment, and it continues into collegiate learning as well. Ackerman finds herself channeling the pedagogy of Dr. Kelli Garas-York in her own classroom and says, “I have never encountered an instructor so efficient and detail-oriented when responding to a question I had or an assignment I handed in. As a student, I realized how beneficial these qualities were to my learning and growing experience.” Furthermore, Ackerman’s experiences both learning from and working alongside Dr. Jevon Hunter brought her incredible insight. As a professor who believes that great teachers collaborate with their students, Hunter encouraged Ackerman to present alongside him at several conferences including the PDS Retreat, New York State Reading Association Conference, and National Convention for Teachers of English Conference. Ackerman keeps ties with Buffalo State as she continues to work closely with Dr. Hunter.
Educators who are certified through Buffalo State are provided a variety of school placements where they can immediately practice teaching strategies alongside experienced teachers. This blend of both theory and practice has solidified the university’s reputation for producing quality school leaders and Ackerman found the summer practicum for literacy specialists to be exceptionally beneficial, stating, “I felt like it was an authentic assessment of graduate students receiving certification literacy specialists.”
Buffalo State has done more than endorse Ackerman’s immersion into literacy on a local level; it has also financially supported her nationwide endeavors. The Graduate Student Association funded her trip to the National Convention for Teachers of English’s (NCTE) annual conference in Boston so she was able to co-present with Dr. Hunter. Ackerman’s immersion into this stage of academia impacted her. “I could write pages about how influential NCTE was to my learning path and future as an educator. Attending this conference with Buffalo State inspired me to submit my own individual proposal for the 2014 convention which was accepted, and was also a contributing factor to my applying for doctoral schooling only months afterward,” she says. The opportunity to engage in this kind of academic community on a national scale enhanced Ackerman’s professional persona, and she has returned to the conference ever since.
Ackerman was able to further enhance her education by immersing herself in the educational practices of other nations which, given the changing demographic in our nation’s schools, enhanced her teaching significantly. She has visited the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Norway, Italy, and Ireland and states, “I was able to explore new places, new people, and become more aware of the world around me.”
Following a time in Alleghany, Ackerman was offered an adjunct teaching position at Niagara County Community College. She advises teacher-candidates to remain open to opportunities and recalls her initial reluctance to leave her hometown and to teach two hours away from her family: “Although I had to ‘uproot’ myself and move to a new area the experience propelled my career to where I am now. I would advise future teachers to take chances and diversify their teaching credentials.” Teaching is a continual practice and placements, wherever they may be, will only strengthen and refine one’s skills.
Inspired by Professor Christopher Shively, Ackerman is continuing to challenge herself academically, as she is pursuing a doctoral degree in Curriculum, Instruction, and the Science of Learning from the University at Buffalo. Alongside Dr. Hunter, she is expected to present at the Literacy Research Association this December in San Diego.