As a young child, Christine Garas spent hours teaching to an imaginary classroom only she could see. Now the Buffalo State sophomore is working in a real kindergarten classroom at Enterprise Charter School, introducing literacy concepts to her young charges. This classroom placement is part of the coursework in her dual major of elementary education and exceptional education.
“I’d always heard if you want to be a teacher, Buffalo State is the place to go,” said Garas, an Alden, New York, resident. “I’ve known many people who studied education at Buffalo State who are doing very well. It’s been a very good fit for me.”
She loves the School of Education’s option of dual certification in childhood education and exceptional education.
“When I realized I had this choice, I pursued it. I knew I’d have more options for getting a job, but more importantly, I’d have the chance to work with different types of students,” Garas said. “With my degree, I’ll be able to work anywhere from a regular classroom to a self-contained one. Friends who are studying education at other schools don’t necessarily have that option.”
Garas noted that the rich diversity of Buffalo State has opened new worlds to her.
“I grew up in a small town with very little diversity,” she said. “Coming to Buffalo State has really been a cultural experience for me. I’ve loved having interactions with all kinds of people that I didn’t have the opportunity to meet in high school.”
Although she’s only a sophomore, Garas has assumed a key role leadership role on campus as president of the Student Council for Exceptional Children (SCEC), an organization that advocates for students with special needs. They currently have approximately 15 active members.
“This has been a great extension of my classwork and is enhancing my professional development in the field,” she said.
She’s also involved with Best Buddies, an organization that pairs college students with individuals with developmental disabilities. They meet several times a semester for social activities.
“I think the buddies really enjoy that because they may not have social outlets in other areas of their lives,” she said. “It’s a wonderful feeling to see the joy that they get out of the activities that we do.”
This summer, Garas will partake of another opportunity offered to education majors: spending three weeks in Chile with the International Professional Development School (IPDS).
She and a group of education majors will work directly with students and participate in an extensive Spanish immersion program. The IPDS offers other travel opportunities, including the Dominican Republic, China, England, Germany, Honduras, Italy, and Zambia.
“I think it’ll be a very rewarding experience and will help globalize me as an educator,” said Garas, who also has been exposed to other cultures by participating in Global Book Hour at Wegmans. As part of her Introduction to Literacy course, Garas spent Saturday mornings at the Amherst Street Wegmans reading stories to children from many nationalities and sharing an activity and snack with them.
“I loved doing it so much that I hope to help out with the program in the future even though I’m not in that class anymore,” she said.
Although Garas makes a 35-minute commute to campus each day, she’s still able to get involved and meet people. Through SCEC, she’s gone to conferences for pre-teachers, and she regularly participates in social activities with the group.
“I got lucky having a school close to home that was such a fit for me,” Garas said. “I couldn’t ask for anything more in a college that satisfies my personal goals, my ambitions, and what I’m looking for in a career.”