Education Alumni Working Outside K-12 Classrooms
Dana Dreby Collins ’03 B.A. Elementary Education; d’05 M.Ed. Educational Leadership:
Prepared for the Real World in Social Service Education
From high school on, Dana Collins ’03 was one of those lucky few who knew what she wanted to do with her life. “I was always interested in early childhood and elementary education,” she says. “My original goal was to open and own a childcare center.”
Collins graduated from Arcadia University with her B.A. in Elementary Education and decided to pursue her Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership immediately afterwards. “In addition to the hands-on elementary education experience, I wanted to understand the ‘business and administration side of education,” she explained. Collins understood that studying this aspect of education, particularly case law, would greatly supplement her blossoming career.
Soon after receiving her M.Ed. in 2005, she jumped at the opportunity to serve as the childcare center director with the YMCA of Burlington and Camden counties in New Jersey. “I work with different school and community settings—urban and suburban,” she said. “The landscape of education is constantly changing and by placing me in different educational settings, Arcadia helped me to understand that not all learning environments are the same, but each child deserves a quality experience. Arcadia prepared me for any setting in which I was going to work and set me on the right path to a successful career.”
Just seven years after working at the YMCA, Collins is now Executive Director of the organization’s 18 School Age Child Care sites, seven Early Child Care sites, and 18 summer camps.“Our child care and camp sites span two counties in an array of different communities, my diverse experience at Arcadia was beneficial in preparing me to work in a variety of environments and educational settings.” As an example, Collins says she understood that, although all the Y programs are held to the same quality standards, each program needs to have staff, culture and curriculum that is connected to the community in which it serves. Another critical function of Collins’ role is navigating relationships with parents, community partners and staff. “Arcadia’s education program infused these relationship building skills into their coursework, contributing to the success of the program” says Collins.
Collins’ time at Arcadia University has proved crucial to her career and development as an educator. “My early childhood classes were phenomenal. At the time I was an undergraduate, there weren’t many colleges with a specific early childhood program. Understanding childhood development from infancy to the age of five, observing settings where children were cared for and served has proven essential in my tenure at the YMCA. “A lot of people think the YMCA is just about working out and swimming,” she says, “But one of our three main areas of focus involves youth development, in which the Y strives to provide all children with the opportunity to discover who they are and what they can achieve. My background studies were a perfect fit for my current work.” In addition to learning information critical to her role, Collins cites her relationships with faculty and staff as a hallmark of her Arcadia experience. “My professors and everyone I came into contact with at Arcadia allowed me to grow and understand what the key concepts are in youth development and educational administration. They helped to shape my short term and long term goals allowing me to define my career path.”
Mary Lou Cardie ’98 M.Ed., Secondary Education Mathematics:
An Arcadia Graduate Degree in Education Applied to Diverse Career Paths
Mary Lou Cardie’s path to Arcadia came after her career as a youth basketball coach and in the pharmaceutical industry. Mary Lou’s background in computer science had served her well in her career, but she found she enjoyed working with children. She built on her past experience by pursuing a master’s of education in secondary mathematics at Arcadia. “I felt like I might want to go into teaching at the high school level so that I could also coach. That is when I found Arcadia’s program” says Cardie. “While working at the pharmaceutical company, I was also able to participate in a Junior Achievement program where I was able to teach an eight week program in a classroom on computers, which furthered my interest in pursuing graduate work in education.”
That was 24 years ago. Today, Cardie works two jobs, both outside of the traditional classroom environment. As co-founder of Validation Associates Inc, she develops and conducts computer system validation training seminars that address FDA requirements for computer validation and promote software quality for companies in the pharmaceutical, medical device and bio-tech industries. Cardie is also certified by the United States Professional Tennis Association (USPTA) as an Elite Professional. She is a senior staff teaching pro at the Doylestown Tennis Club, where she coaches private and group instruction at all levels of play for both children and adults, in addition to training the facility’s junior support staff.
Cardie notes, “I found it very fulfilling to have earned my M.Ed. in an area that truly helped me be more effective in my current careers, which, although diverse, both involve teaching. My graduate education at Arcadia’s School of Education has helped me be more aware of what makes each person with whom I interact unique.”
Arcadia’s program also offered part-time programs and flexibility that really worked for Cardie. “What I liked about Arcadia’s program was that I was able to pursue my studies while still working full time.” Cardie also found the Dean’s support and small class sizes important to her Arcadia experience.
What Cardie learned at the School of Education has helped her in her careers outside of K-12 classrooms. “The most important concept I learned in the program that I apply in both of my current positions is the need to understand different learning styles of my students and adapt my teaching methods to suite my student’s particular needs. This applies both on the tennis court and in the training seminars I teach.”
Meg Eubank, B.A. ’05 Elementary Education and ’07 M.A.Ed. Language Arts:
An Unexpected Path to a Higher Education Career
Meg Eubank graduated from Arcadia with both undergraduate and graduate degrees, the first in Elementary Education and the latter in Language Arts. She is now the Writing Specialist at Bucks County Community College Tutoring Center, a position outside the traditional K-12 classroom. Following is a Q&A with Meg, who answers questions regarding how Arcadia’s Education program prepared her for a life in higher education.
Q: What is your current position and title? What do you do as part of your current job?
A: I am the Writing Specialist at the Bucks County Community College Tutoring Center, and on the Board of Directors of Welcoming the Stranger (a nonprofit ESL program) and the regional secretary for the College Reading and Learning Association (CRLA).
At Bucks County Community College, I am a supervisor in the Tutoring Center, overseeing tutors and administrative support staff. I also tutor writing, reading, study skills, literature, and American English as a Second Language face-to-face and online. I work on designing and implementing tutor training to College Reading and Learning Association certification standards, developing and conducting orientations and workshops for students, and creating resources and handouts.
I also work with Welcoming the Stranger to provide English classes free of charge to immigrants and refugees to help them reach their goals in America. Currently, Welcoming the Stranger has provided classes to approximately 2,700 students from 90 different countries across the globe.
Q: What appealed to you about the School of Education?
A: Arcadia’s School of Education has a wonderful reputation. In my college search, I was very drawn to the fact that Arcadia gets future teachers in the classroom right away, working with students. Arcadia provided many opportunities to practice what we were learning in our college courses in real life settings. I was able to do field work with various grade levels in public, private, urban, and suburban school settings.
I was also drawn to Arcadia’s vision for international experience. As a freshman, I was able to attend London Preview, and I also traveled to Greece and Italy. These experiences helped widen my eyes to the world and fostered my interest in, and appreciation for, different cultures. Influenced by Arcadia’s emphasis on a global world, when the time came to look for graduate schools, I looked worldwide. However, in the end I came back to Arcadia for graduate school because it offered everything I wanted in a program. The opportunity to attend an individualized educational program and the stellar faculty drew me back in.
Q: Did you teach in K-12 education before moving into a position outside a K-12 classroom? What was your path into a position outside a K-12 classroom?
A: Entering college, my classmates and I expected to acquire traditional teaching positions in a classroom when we finished our degrees. We didn’t know that the economic climate would be declining when we entered the workforce. I graduated with a B.A. in Elementary Education and a M.A.Ed. in Language Arts. Upon graduating, I began working at Germantown Friends School in Philadelphia in a third grade classroom and an elementary science classroom. I was also teaching a section of high school English. The next school year, I moved back to Bucks County to a position in a public school. I worked at New Hope Solebury School District as an Instructional Assistant working with ESL students, students in the special education program, and students in the Autistic Support program. These experiences allowed me to work with K-12 students of varying ages and backgrounds.
I began to think outside the box for a related occupation as the job market became more difficult and many school districts began hiring freezes around 2009-2010. Rather than narrow my view to only elementary schools, I applied at Bucks County Community College and began working as an ESL Specialist in their Tutoring Center in August of 2010. This opened the door for me in other areas of working with English language learners. The following year I began working as Coordinator of the ESL Program in Morrisville for Welcoming the Stranger, a nonprofit that offers English and Citizenship test prep classes for immigrants. In this position, I was responsible for running classes for a caseload of about 75-85 adult students each semester. I designed the ESL curriculum, scheduled and taught classes, recruited students, and supervised and trained volunteer tutors. Then I began working as an adjunct as well, teaching two ESL classes at Rider University and becoming the ESL Specialist at their Student Success Center (tutoring center).
My work with adult English language learners may initially seem very different than what I went to college to do, however, I found my education at Arcadia really prepared me wonderfully for teaching English language learners. My background in Language Arts and my experience teaching students at all stages of their native language development (K-12) helps me to work with students in the English as a Second Language program who are all at different levels of English language acquisition. The acquisition of language is the same at any age, though the presentation and content might vary. I have been able to use many of the skills I learned about teaching kindergarteners to read and write in my work with adult beginning English learners, as they learn sight words and increase vocabulary. I have used middle school and high school level texts with my more advanced English language learners to increase their vocabulary, writing and discussion skills. My training in K-12 teaching at Arcadia helped prepare me for jobs in which I create curriculum or explain concepts to students, from very beginner to advanced levels.
I have since been promoted at Bucks to Writing Specialist, which is a full time job, so I took the year off from teaching any college level or adult ESL classes to settle in, but I still work closely with Welcoming the Stranger and was invited to serve on their Board of Directors last summer.
Q: What, in your view, is a hallmark or unique feature of the Arcadia program in which you were a student?
A: I spent a lot of time in the Education, English, Honors, and Art Departments as a student at Arcadia. One of the most impressive hallmarks of all of these departments, in my experience, was the incredibly knowledgeable, accomplished, and inspiring faculty and staff that work at the school. Furthermore, not only are the professors all seasoned, active scholars in their fields, but also they take the time to get to know their students personally. Office doors were always open, instructors stayed late after class, and professors would even open their homes to students who were interested in continuing the conversations from class over some dinner. In this way, Arcadia lives up to its name as a community of scholars who pursue knowledge and higher thinking. I am still in touch with the majority of the professors from my major, and have a mentor relationship with several of them. My Education professors still inform my career today.
Q: How do you use what you learned at Arcadia in your current position?
A: Arcadia offered opportunities to be an active participant in my career as a student, which set the stage for me to continue this in my professional career. While I was working towards my Masters degree, I was a Graduate Assistant to (former School of Education faculty member) Dr. Bette Goldstone. I assisted her in researching postmodern children’s literature for the book she was authoring. This gave me firsthand experience with the scholarly writing process, which helped to inform some of my own scholarly pursuits.
I also assisted in the creation of a new Visual Literacy course for the Education program in my Graduate Assistantship. Being a part of the process of formation such as researching similar classes at other schools, planning learning objectives and finding ways to reach them taught me how to design a course. I later drew on that experience as I created courses for students at Germantown Friends School, Welcoming the Stranger, and Rider University.
At the time, Arcadia had just partnered with a group called Miracle Corners Community Center in Tanzania, Africa, and the (then) Education Department was planning on developing a course for Arcadia students to work with African students in a yet-to-be-formed educational center. Part of my Graduate Assistantship consisted of helping in the foundation of this educational center. Through this work, I learned about all the considerations necessary when constructing an educational program, and I later used those same concepts in my career when developing course programming for Welcoming the Stranger.
My Graduate Assistantship (as well as Graduate Assistantships with the English and Honors Departments) gave me valuable experience in administrative duties, which prepared me for my jobs at Welcoming the Stranger and Bucks County Community College.
Q: So the skills you learned, both in Arcadia classrooms and outside, are beneficial to your career outside K-12 teaching?
Q: What do you think the long-term career and personal benefits are of your having gone through Arcadia’s education program?
A: My education at Arcadia helped lead me to my current position where I am working in an environment that is interesting, challenging, and that I feel is a good fit for me. Personally, I have benefited from long lasting friendships and connections with both faculty and classmates. Photography and art are other passions of mine, and my photography teacher from Arcadia, Judy Taylor, became a mentor to me. She had a way of challenging me to approach my work in different ways to best communicate artistic expression. With her encouragement and guidance, I have published, exhibited, and won awards for my work, making me, as an art photographer, part of the legacy she left behind.
My passion for English language arts and writing was fostered by professors in both the Education and English departments. I was given many opportunities at Arcadia to develop those skills, which have resulted in my written work being published (and of course the incredibly useful skill of being able to effectively communicate through writing at my job on a daily basis.)
My tutoring career also began at Arcadia, as a tutor in the Education Enhancement Center (now the Learning Resource Network) and a consultant and later Graduate Assistant in the Writing Center. Since then, I have tutored continuously at tutoring centers and privately for over a decade.
I was involved in many campus activities during my time at Arcadia, which played an instrumental role in the development of my career. My participation in Arcadia Theater helped me to build public speaking skills and confidence. Editing and writing for literary magazines and The Tower (the campus newspaper) gave me experience creating collaborative publications. Serving as a Day on Campus host to prospective students helped me learn customer service skills (a large part of my job now is to work with new and prospective students). My role as an officer (Historian and later President) of the Society for Castle Restoration gave me practice in a leadership role in an organization. I was also active in the campus television station, the art club, the activist club, the English club, and PRIDE, which exposed me to many varied experiences and a diverse body of students with different interests and backgrounds. I have continued to be active beyond my primary job with my leadership roles as secretary in the PA/NJ CRLA and my seat on the Board of Directors of Welcoming the Stranger.
Q: If you were asked to give advice to students just entering Arcadia, what would it be?
A: Get involved in all of the opportunities Arcadia has to offer. Arcadia helps students gain valuable skills during college which can later be marketed to the workforce. As students graduate into their fields, they will enter an applicant pool with others who have the same degree, but what will put them ahead is the accomplishments and skills developed during an active college career that can transfer to the field. Arcadia offers the opportunity for a real life education (as well as strong, challenging academics) to produce well-rounded individuals.
Q: If you had to sum up your Arcadia experience, what would you say?
A: Arcadia is excellent at providing a personalized education to meet students’ goals and foster their interests. From self-designed majors to independent study opportunities to creative projects, there is a lot of room for individualized study. Arcadia is also welcoming, warm, and the faculty and staff get to know every student personally. This personal care and connection distinguishes Arcadia from other higher education institutions. The high standard of excellence, the wide variety of opportunity for enrichment, and the outstanding faculty during my time at Arcadia gave me the strong foundation upon which I am building my career.
Kim Lane ’11, B.A. Early Childhood/Elementary/Special Education:
“Arcadia gave me the confidence to know I could handle any situation!”
A: I absolutely fell in love with Arcadia the moment I stepped onto the campus. Everyone was so friendly and welcoming and I really liked how the education department felt like a family. However, what really caught my attention was the study abroad opportunities without having to go away for an entire semester. It was also possible for me to do the triple major and still graduate in four years. My experience at the School of Education made such an impact on my life and I still keep in contact with many of my professors!
Q: Did you teach in K-12 education before moving into a position outside a K-12 classroom? If not, what was your path into a position outside a K-12 classroom?
A: While I was in high school I also had the opportunity to help in a kindergarten classroom. I fell in love with working with children and immediately thought of education as an obvious major. Throughout college I worked in child care centers teaching six weeks to six-year olds. I also was a camp counselor and loved the idea of hands on learning. After so much time in actual classrooms, and especially student teaching, I realized that being in a classroom all day was not the right fit for me. I love traveling and Arcadia helped me have many opportunities to teach children abroad. When I thought about my two passions of working with children and traveling, working on a cruise ship seemed like a great option for someone who has just graduated from college, has nothing tying them down, and wants to experience a lot more. After coming back from a year working for Disney Cruise Line, I did return to teaching in a child care center.
Q: How did your studies at Arcadia prove beneficial to your career outside K-12 classrooms?
A: One thing that stood out to me while I was working on the Disney ship was how much I was able to use the creativity and quick thinking that I had learned at Arcadia. Sometimes it would be as simple as coming up with a fun craft for the kids or working with a child from the Make a Wish foundation trying to make an extra special cruise; I also used those skills in more critical situations such as dealing with different types of emergencies. Anything can happen when you are floating in the middle of the ocean and making cookies with over 500 kids, but Arcadia gave me the confidence to know I could handle any situation!
Q: What, in your view, is a hallmark or unique feature of the Arcadia program in which you were a student?
A: I was amazed at how well the professors got to know each one of their students and on more of a personal level which ultimately helped us to succeed even more. It was so nice to have professors that became such role models to me and showed me all the opportunities I had. They definitely kept me motivated and inspired during my entire experience at Arcadia.
Q: Please give a specific example of how what you learned in our program has made a difference in your career or professional life–how do you use what you learned at Arcadia in your career/position?
A: Something that stood out to me with Arcadia was the travel opportunities and how diversity was embraced. Whether it was having fieldwork in a different type of school than I was used to, or traveling to Guatemala or Tanzania and teaching there, or even learning to work as a team in classes and clubs with others different than myself, this was an important experience for my job working on a cruise ship. Only 15% of the employees of Disney Cruise Line are American, so it was necessary for me to learn how to not only work but also live with people from all different countries and very different cultures.
Q: Would you say that the skills you learned in our education program are applicable beyond teaching in K-12 classrooms? If so, how?
A: Definitely! The skills taught of how to work with children were very beneficial to me. Deciding to add the special education component in my degree program was helpful in teaching how to be patient and understanding with people as well as learning skills to explain a concept in multiple ways if someone does not understand. The School of Education taught me to embrace being a life-long learner and I have really held on to that idea. I am open to seeing ideas in more than one way as well as knowing that my education will never truly be done. We learn everyday from the world all around us, even if we do not realize it!
Q: What do you think the long-term career and personal benefits are of your having gone through Arcadia’s education program?
A: I still plan on working with children, just in a different environment than a normal classroom. I learned so much more from Arcadia than just the typical academics. My education program taught me how important a support group is in any kind of environment as well as that a professor can also be a friend and amazing resource and role model. Most importantly, I learned how to be a strong advocate for those who might not be able to advocate for themselves, and even to advocate for myself.