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In Focus: Christine O'Neill

Christine O’Neill is receiving her Bachelor of Arts with a double major in Spanish and Foreign Language Education.  Christine is pursuing a secondary teaching position on Long Island following graduation and plans to attend Hofstra for graduate school in 2010 after teaching for a year.

How has your undergraduate experience at Hofstra been and what will you miss most about it?

I have had an enriching and exciting experience at Hofstra as an undergraduate student.  Although I am a commuter, I was able to connect with other students within my discipline.  I appreciate that I am always kept up-to-date with the latest events or workshops being offered at Hofstra whether it be through e-mails or Facebook.  I also find that I have had the unique opportunity to develop relationships with many of my professors.  In high school I had a whole year to establish a relationship with a teacher.  At Hofstra I was still able to receive great mentorship from professors who truly cared about my success as a student and a future educator in a short period of time.  I will miss the relationships I developed with my peers as well, who are also pursuing careers in education.

Why are you choosing Hofstra for graduate school?

Hofstra has a very well-established reputation in the education world.  My experience at Hofstra has been so positive, that I cannot imagine receiving my masters degree anywhere else.  I will be pursuing my masters part-time and working full-time.  I have found employment for this fall teaching Spanish at the secondary-level on Long Island.

What will you get your masters degree in when returning to Hofstra?

I plan on pursing Teaching English as a Second Language (TESOL). I feel that this goes hand-in-hand with my B.A. degree.  I love language and I believe that this program would build on the foundation that was already established in my language methods courses as an undergraduate.

Tell us about your passion for teaching Spanish.

I was exposed to Spanish at a young age since my mother is Ecuadorian and my father is Irish and Puerto Rican.  My home was somewhat bilingual - my mother speaks fluently and my father can speak conversationally.  However, I never fully appreciated the language and all of the cultures that coincide with it until I reached high school.  It was there that I was first exposed to great language teachers.  This spurred my desire to major in Spanish at the college-level.  At Hofstra the Romance Languages and Literature department is filled with phenomenal professors who truly have a passion for the language, literature and culture of Spanish speaking countries.  It was during my freshman or sophomore year that I realized I could combine both my passion for education and the language, and pursue a career as a Spanish teacher at the secondary level. 

You mentioned that you lived in California for six years. What differences in education did you find on the west coast?

I consider myself a true blue New Yorker.  However, I did spend a good portion of my childhood in California.  I was born in New York and then my family moved to the west coast when I was five years old and we lived there for six years.  During our time in California, we lived in San Francisco for three years and then San Mateo for the other three years.  Although I was very young, I do remember that there was a strong emphasis on health and excellence in education, even at the elementary school level.

Do you think you will ever move back west?

I’ll see where life takes me.  However, most of my family resides in New York so it would be difficult to move across the country.  Also, I love the east coast and New York City - I like the fast-paced feel here. 

Have you always wanted to be a teacher?

Definitely.  I was one of those six-year olds who wanted a chalkboard as a toy.  I would then force my younger sister to be my student; luckily for me she was compliant.  I loved being a student and attending school every day and I was always very involved.  Initially, I considered being an elementary school teacher.  However, once I reflected on my own educational experiences I realized that my high school teachers had been some of the most influential people in my life.  I want to create that same connection with my future students.  Plus, I love the Spanish language so it was a great way to combine the two passions.

What qualities in your opinion make a good teacher?

I believe that a good teacher must be passionate about his/her subject. Accessibility of the teacher to the students allows for the establishment of a positive rapport. He/she should be motivational in bringing the course to the personal level and giving students a reason why they should be there.  A teacher should also be inspirational, exhibiting a desire for the success of his/her students not only in school but also in life. The ability to be interactive: to not only teach the material, but to connect with the students is a key quality. 

When asked about an influential teacher, you mentioned Dr. Mustapha Masrour.  How has he served as a mentor through your undergraduate degree at Hofstra?

Dr. Mustapha Masrour has served as a constant source of encouragement and guidance throughout my educational career at Hofstra. He was my language education methods professor and served as my advisor as well.  His door was always open to any of us who needed guidance with anything from how to use a Smartboard, which classes to take the following semester, how to write a resume and just being a listening ear.  He was truly interested in our success as educators.  As a student teacher, I was most excited to have him observe my class.  It was an opportunity for me to demonstrate to him how well he had prepared us and how far I had come.

Is anyone else in your family a teacher?

Yes.  My cousin and his wife are both teachers.  My cousin is a high school Spanish teacher and his wife teaches fourth grade.