In Focus: Kristina Viscariello
What made you choose Hofstra?
I have lived in Pennsylvania with my family most of my life, so Hofstra really wasn’t on my radar. One of my really good friends was going here and encouraged me to apply. I became increasingly interested after I visited and loved what I learned about teacher prep programs in the School of Education, Health and Human Services. The dual certification program in early childhood and childhood education allows you to have a co-major, and this allowed me to bring in my original interest in the sciences. Co-majoring in chemistry would give me another route to possibly take after graduation.
Have you always known you wanted to be a teacher?
Since kindergarten, I knew this is what I wanted to do. Actually at that time, it was either teacher or ballerina. My dad became a chemistry teacher when I was in second grade so teaching was always a presence in my childhood. Both of my parents are chemists so of course I loved the sciences. In my first placement in pre-kindergarten at the UPK program, I first thought, “can I do this?” Quickly, I fell in love with the kids and the teacher gave me the tools I needed to be successful. From day one in that placement, I knew I was in the right field at the right school.
Tell us about your extracurricular involvement at Hofstra.
I am the president of the Newman Club, which is the Catholic organization on campus. My faith is extremely important to me and this group really helped me, especially when I first started at Hofstra. I was having a rough time away from home and this community really became a family to me. It was a wonderful outlet and allowed me to be a leader and take on new responsibilities. I also really enjoy being a part of Danceworks because I’ve been dancing since age eight. I also love to sing and am involved with UChoir. All of these activities have really made my experience here wonderful so far.
Did you see any of the professors here at mentors?
I definitely look to Dr. Esther Fusco as a mentor. She always wants to hear how I’m doing and what I’m up to. We meet periodically and she has provided a ton of support. I also relied heavily on my field placement supervisors Jan Spero and Gene Kutcher as well as my student teaching supervisor, Jean Kronenberg. All of the faculty were so supportive and really encouraging which helped build up my confidence. I would try to get assignments done as early as I could, because they all provided extensive feedback so I knew I was going in the right direction. Whether in person or over the phone, they are all really easy to connect with.
Tell us about your student teaching experiences.
I was in the Hewlett-Woodmere district in three different settings: kindergarten and first grade at the Franklin Childhood Center and fourth grade in Ogden Elementary School. I loved all of my placements, and each helped me to find my preferences for my own classroom. I learned so much about classroom management and discipline at each level. The cooperating teachers were amazing and handed over the reigns to me to plan whole units. Overall, it was such an unbelievable experience and when it was over after the fall, all I wanted to do was be back in the classroom! I actually contacted the California Avenue school where I observed a second grade class, and they allowed me to come back to volunteer. I couldn’t wait to be back in the school setting and even work with the same kids now in third grade.
How did the dual program at Hofstra help prepare you for the job search?
I was so happy to accept a position teaching in Camden, NJ through the Teach for America Corps program. My interviewer was really impressed by my student teaching portfolio, which the program helps you to craft to document all of your experiences. I also had to conduct a five-minute lesson plan, which I felt completely prepared for. The program instills in you a confidence, particularly in time management so I used my five minutes efficiently. I chose to talk about magnetism, which I had just done with my fourth graders in student teaching. I was nervous, but comfortable throughout the interview process, and that is also because of the mock interviews my student teaching supervisor organized. Each week we would practice and critique each other. I appreciated feedback from my teacher and my peers.
What are some highlights of your time at Hofstra?
I love that I worked with a cohort of other students who went through the program with me. We grew together and were a really strong support system. This was so important, especially as we went through student teaching, which can be very stressful as new professionals.
What are your goals for the future?
I’d like to teach traditional elementary education in a low-income area, or maybe work in a hospital setting where I could teach children with medical conditions. I’m currently prepping for state licensure exams to teach in PA, NJ, and NY so that I can be flexible in where I’ll end up. I’m definitely interested in getting a Master’s degree in the future, but am looking to learn more about what I want in a program while I teach for my first two years. I’m excited and encourage anyone thinking about teaching to look at Hofstra’s programs. Go into the School of Education, Health and Human Services and take the first course, and you’ll know if this is the field for you. Others will help you through it, so go for it!