In Focus: Sasha Orlick '11
Tell us about your background and what made you want to pursue teaching.
When I was young, I was a competitive figure skater and actually wasn’t in school often because of practice or competitions, however I was always a good student and maintained a high GPA. Come middle school, I gave up figure skating and became a regular kid. I realized that I actually enjoyed going to school, had a few teachers that I really liked and a love of social studies, so when it came time to pick a career path, I figured teaching would be my best bet. I attended Stony Brook University from 2006-2009 for my undergraduate degree in history and then came to Hofstra to pursue my master’s degree in education.
What brought you to Hofstra University for graduate studies?
I have always heard that Hofstra was a great place to go if you wanted to be a teacher and that a degree from here would help me get a job faster so I came and toured Hagedorn Hall to see for myself. I instantly fell in love with the facility, felt right at home, and just knew that this was where I should be… and I was absolutely right!
How would you describe your field placements/student teaching experience?
I was placed in Copiague for the majority of my observation hours and that’s where I discovered that I wanted to go the special education route. I saw these two co-teachers working together so well that they practically finished each other’s sentences, and decided right there to switch gears. The next day I joined the Inclusion program so that one day that could be me.
As for my student teaching, I couldn’t have been in a better place. For the first portion of my placement, I was put in Massapequa Ames as a general educator. I had so much support and learned so much from not just my cooperating teachers, but from everyone there. It was great to feel like part of the staff, get to know the students, be creative with my lessons, and receive constructive criticisms.
My second placement was in Massapequa High School as a special educator. Originally I was a little nervous because I had to go from being a general educator to a special educator. It wasn’t as nerve-wracking as I thought and I quickly fell in love with my new position. The staff here is amazing, supportive, and really helped me develop my footing as a teacher. I have so many great memories and experiences that I am so grateful to have had.
Did you find mentors while you studied at Hofstra?
Yes, I did. I had the great fortune to have Jo Richards as one of my Professors. She is so passionate about special education and just being around her makes you want to advocate for everyone and do the absolute best you can as a teacher not only to help your students learn, but to help them in life as well. I loved her class; she was so engaging, and shared such great information that when I walked out of her class each time, I left with a new enthusiasm for my future career.
I was also very lucky to have Dr. Pace as a Professor and my supervisor for student teaching. She is so insightful, caring, knowledgeable and helpful. We would talk often and she always gave great advice in regards to my teaching experiences and lesson planning. If it wasn’t for her, I feel like I would have really missed out on an important part of my student teaching experience.
How has Hofstra prepared you for the job search process post-graduation?
Hofstra has been incredibly helpful in my hunt for a job. First of all, if you’re in the Social Studies program you most certainly have met Alan Singer. He is a one-man network for all of Long Island and has been so helpful because he’ll send out emails with job postings in them as well as all his latest Huffington Post work. There is also a place on the website where you can find career opportunities. This is actually where I was able to get the position I have now at the Williamsburg Charter High School.
What are your long-term goals?
While I absolutely love teaching at the high school level, in the future I’d like to go back for my Ph.D. and maybe become a college professor. In the meantime, I’d like to help as many students as I can reach their goals.
What advice do you have for those seeking certification at the secondary level?
Before you become too involved in the field, my advice is to talk to as many teachers as you can, get as many opinions as you can, and observe as many classes in different settings as you can. I don’t want to sugarcoat this, but it’s really important to have a strong passion for not only teaching, but for children/adolescents as well because although it is rewarding and fun, it is also incredibly challenging at times. It isn’t fair for the kids to have a teacher that only came into the field because of summers off. That’s not why you’re there.
Hofstra is an amazing institution that really gave me everything I wanted in a University. I was a name, not a number and it really makes a difference when you have professors that you can develop meaningful relationships with and are willing to help you every step of the way. If I had the option to go back and redo my graduate school, I wouldn’t change a thing. Thank you Hofstra and staff for a great experience!