The summer after she completed her literacy specialist master's degree, Crystal Holmes-Smith, '15, '16, accepted an offer to teach fourth and fifth grades at Moriah School in La Esperanza, Honduras. As she teaches English, science, and mathematics, she also studies the Spanish language and develops her classroom methods.
Holmes-Smith believes teaching abroad is the perfect way to spend her first year as an educator. “There are some challenges, of course,” she said. “English is a second language for my students, so I have to work hard to help them understand the content. But I enjoy the challenge. I have the freedom to be creative and do whatever I think is best. I’m having fun.”
Teaching provides Holmes-Smith with the satisfaction of helping students reach their goals, and her focus on literacy enables her to help them develop strong reading and writing skills—skills that she considers essential. “I’ve watched students struggle because they lacked literacy skills,” she said. “I chose this field because I think that literacy is the basis for all education.”
Holmes-Smith said that Buffalo State contributed greatly to her personal development by helping her build confidence and leadership skills. As an undergraduate, Holmes-Smith collaborated with student government and worked closely with Buffalo State’s Professional Development Schools Consortium. She also engaged heavily in undergraduate research—earning a summer research fellowship and presenting on campus and at national conferences such as the National Association for Professional Development Schools.
Two study-abroad opportunities also influenced Holmes-Smith. In 2015, she traveled to Chile where she observed and taught. In 2016, she traveled with the Anne Frank Project to Rwanda to take part in a drama-based education program. Both trips allowed her to build friendships, stretch herself as a teacher, and examine the joys and struggles experienced across the globe. Holmes-Smith believes that campus-led travel abroad is something all students, especially teacher-education candidates, should make part of their academic plan.
“All of these experiences, both abroad and on campus, made me challenge myself and try new things,” she said. “I developed an appreciation for different cultures, which helped me become a more culturally responsive teacher.” Her next stop begins in August 2017, when she will serve as a Peace Corps volunteer co-teaching English as a foreign language in Nicaragua.
Holmes-Smith said that, at Buffalo State, she learned what it takes to succeed in both a career and at life: a love for what you do, hard work, dedication, and a willingness to continue learning.
“Education is always changing, and there will always be new strategies and techniques,” she said. “There are many challenges in education, and if you don’t truly love your job, those challenges will frustrate you. It is up to you, as a professional, to remain engaged in research and professional development so that you are always equipped with the best tools for student success.”