posted January 15, 2018 - written by Molly Rutter, SOE Graduate Assistant
Christina Yuknis (Lougen) always knew she wanted to be a teacher and was drawn to Buffalo State’s teacher preparation program as well as the opportunity to participate in the Walt Disney World College Program.
“Both programs were ones I had long wanted to be in,” she said, “but had it not been for an unexpected turn of events, I may have ended up on an entirely different career path.”
After an unpleasant experience working as an aide in a summer school classroom, Yuknis began to contemplate whether special education was right for her. Fortunately it wasn’t too long before Yuknis experienced a positive turn, she was awarded the Geraldine Werner scholarship, which is given to one student a year who exhibits excellence in the field of exceptional education.
The courses Yuknis took in the Exceptional Education program instilled in her a way to think about teaching and planning through careful alignment to standards and reflective practice.
“My favorite parts were all of my practicum and internship experiences in real classrooms. I was very well prepared by Buffalo State to enter the teaching profession.”
Yuknis’ academic journey extended far beyond the classroom, however. Her participation in the Walt Disney College Program - while not directly related to teaching - was very influential in her growth as a teacher.
“I learned a lot about working with and managing people from diverse walks of life, and the lessons on customer service still live on in my approach to working with students and families,” she said.
Another highlight of Yuknis’ experience at Buffalo State was playing in band, where she had her first ever solo. She studied and played in several groups with Crystal Reinoso, a professor in Digital Media Arts. “We played gigs all over the area, including a reception at the President’s House!”
In addition, through the Buffalo State Honors program, Yuknis had the opportunity to further enrich her academic experience.
“I was offered an array of courses that challenged my thinking and encouraged me to dig deeper into ideas and topics,” she said.
What Yuknis learned through her coursework and practicum experiences still inform her personal approach to education today. In the first lesson she ever developed and taught, Yuknis and a partner designed a board game to teach an abstract concept to 6th graders. It wasn’t the success of this lesson that inspires Yuknis, however, but rather the ways she continues to revisit what she learned as well as her daily reflection practice.
“To this day, I still think about the challenge of teaching abstract concepts to students in ways that are both meaningful and fun. I come back to this lesson because I try to think of ways to redesign the lesson knowing what I know now.”
Mentored and encouraged by Maureen Smith, Yuknis followed her dream to go to graduate school at Gallaudet University in Washington D.C., the world's only university in which all programs and services are specifically designed to accommodate deaf and hard of hearing students. Currently, she works as an associate professor and M.A. program director at Gallaudet University. Her latest projects focus on increasing teacher diversity and examining college transition experiences for students who are deaf.
“I don’t believe anyone at Buffalo State knows how life-changing the Geraldine Werner scholarship was for me - it made a total difference to my personal journey,” she said.
It seems that receiving that scholarship was meant to be, for Yuknis’ path led her to many more positive experiences and the realization that exceptional education was - and still is - the field for her.
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