Making the Grade
“Effective teaching may be the hardest job there is,” noted world-renowned psychiatrist William Glasser. Even before the added stress imposed by the coronavirus, teaching was always a challenging profession—as well as a calling that many enthusiastically embrace. As a new school year begins, we checked in with some Rutgers alumni who are teachers to get their thoughts and feelings about their chosen careers.
Anthony Louie SAS’17, GSE’20, third-grade teacher in the Bridgewater-Raritan Regional School District
Memory of Rutgers: I met fantastic people while furthering my knowledge of the education field.
Why he went into education: I worked in summer camps since age 18 and I loved the impact that I could have on the community as a role model.
Impact of the pandemic on his teaching or students: It forced me to adapt my way of teaching to make it more technology-friendly while also trying to make learning fun and interactive.
Professional accomplishment he’s most proud of: Watching the growth of my students academically, socially, and technology-wise.
What he wished he knew when he started: The most important thing in the classroom is building meaningful and respectful relationships with each student—also, the importance of normalizing mistakes in the classroom, which creates a more supportive learning environment.
If he had to do it over again, would he still go into the education field? Yes. It was the best decision I have made in my life. I would not change it for the world.
Kimberly Dickstein Hughes RC’08, GSE’09, English teacher, Haddonfield Memorial High School
Memory of Rutgers: I volunteered for four years with the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs and coordinated Model United Nations and Model Congress conferences for high school students.
Why she went into education: My teachers showed me that you could make a real difference and serve others far beyond your community from a classroom.
Impact of the pandemic on her teaching or students: The pandemic has taught us all to practice patience and flexibility in teaching and learning. It forced us to focus on what matters: our collective well-being.
Professional accomplishment she’s most proud of: Being named the 2020 New Jersey State Teacher of the Year.
What she knows now that she wished she knew when she started: Begin each day anew!
If she had to do it over again, would she still go into the education field? Yes, now is an exciting time to become an educator! Real social justice work is happening across the country, and it is starting in our public schools.
Tristian M. Cox RC’09, GSE’10, K-12 social studies supervisor, Plainfield Public School District
Memory of Rutgers: Meeting/collaborating with all the amazing people that Rutgers University helps nurture.
Why he went into education: So that I could help students from Plainfield, New Jersey (my hometown), see the world.
Impact of the pandemic on his teaching or students: Some of the students went without eating. A lot of the students in Plainfield work and assist with bills in the house. Some of those students lost their jobs.
Professional accomplishment he’s most proud of: Being hired to teach in the town where I grew up.
What he wished he knew when he started: Be present and enjoy the moment because life happens fast!
If he had to do it over again, would he still go into the education field? YES! 100 percent. Education is my life. I don’t know what I would be doing if I wasn’t involved in education.
Dennis Dagounis CC’01, science educator at Roselle Park High School
Memory of Rutgers: Playing intramural sports at Cook/Douglass Recreation Center and being introduced to the great sport of “wallyball.”
Why he went into education: To make a difference in students’ lives, help them reach their goals and aspirations, and help them foster a love of the sciences and the world around them.
Impact of the pandemic on his teaching or students: It really put a strain on the social and emotional well-being of the students and the staff. I try my best to keep student engagement and connection at the forefront of my lessons.
Professional accomplishment he’s most proud of: Speaking at a STEM education conference in Wenzhou, China, and helping to foster a collaborative educational relationship between schools in New Jersey and Zhejiang, China. It helped me bring best practices back to my students at Roselle Park High School.
What he wished he knew when he started: Students learn best when they are given a choice on how to connect with the content and demonstrate their knowledge of the material—whether it be through writing a computer program, giving a presentation, creating a video, or writing a story.
If he had to do it over again, would he still go into the education field? Yes, education is a field that gives you so much. To be able to make a difference in a student’s life is priceless. I wouldn’t change a thing.