Posted February 4, 2020- By Molly Rutter, SOE Graduate Assistant
To Candace Kapakos, education takes “humor, heart, hard work and consistency.” She attributes much of her success as a special education teacher to the knowledge she gained as a graduate student at Buffalo State.
Through her graduate coursework, Kapakos learned many practical and valuable skills, such as how to write an IEP, as well as how to create a lesson plan. Kapakos also became more well-informed about educational laws, and how to manage student behavior. She says that the courses she took helped give her an idea of what exceptional education looked like.
“I recall my work needing to be very thorough due to high expectations,” she said.
During her time as a graduate student, Kapakos also worked at Buffalo State’s Child Care Center, which supports teachers and students in providing quality child care for families in the campus and local community.
“I love kids, making people happy and helping others. I love that everyday I might be making a difference in someone’s life which could benefit our world in the long run.”
Kapakos appreciates how all her professors at Buffalo State were eager to help and make accommodations for their students.
“All of the professors were more than happy to help and accommodate students. I really appreciated their dedication to their jobs and the field,” she said.
Kapakos says that the relationship she had with Dr. Lisa Rafferty, professor in Exceptional Education, especially helped her development as an educator. Dr. Rafferty worked with Kapakos to complete her master’s project, and despite personal obligations that came up, Kapakos was impressed with Dr. Rafferty’s continued dedication and support.
“At the time, the completion of my degree was the most important thing happening in my life due to being away from my family and friends, and Dr. Rafferty showed me that my success was important to her as well. Now that I am a teacher, I understand what that means.”
Kapakos and Dr. Rafferty went on to work together to get their thesis article published and presented at a conference. Today, Kapakos continues to keep in touch with Dr. Rafferty and the Exceptional Education department.
As Kapakos furthers her career, she is motivated to create value in the education system, by helping raise young people and keeping them on a successful path. In her classroom, she promotes growth mindset and mindfulness practice, and what she expects of her students, she models herself.
“I work with youth who need a lot of social emotional behavioral support. I encounter a lot of challenges that involve creating the perfect learning environment for those struggling kids. There is not a quick fix for Social Emotional Learning (SEL). It is a constant learning curve that requires me to be flexible and forever researching new techniques. I often forget that I am not alone in this and need to reconnect with my teammates.”
Recently Kapakos was featured in a Microsoft Windows Community video, where she shares how technology assists both her and her students in the classroom.
Kapakos is currently pursuing another Master’s degree in Value-Creating Education for Global Citizenship through DePaul University online, which may lead her down another path, potentially in higher education.
When asked if she had any advice for future teachers, Kapakos said, “Collaborate with anyone and everyone. Be willing to take on leadership and learn more. Never stop learning.”
“Ask yourself how much value you want to create, and then do it. You are part of a bigger cause but your mission in education might be the most profound one of your life.”
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