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In Focus: Sara (Lorenz) Dionne

Always great to see a double Hofstra alumna!  What drove you to study Elementary Education at Hofstra for both your bachelor’s and master’s degrees?
The reputation of the Elementary Education program at Hofstra was what initially prompted me to apply to the University.  The professors in the program did an amazing job preparing me for a career in education, and the field placements over the course of the program gave me hands-on experiences that built my confidence and prepared me for my first teaching position.  When it came time to apply for a master’s program, there was no doubt that I would be returning to Hofstra for their Elementary Education: Math, Science, and Technology program, (now Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math).

What kinds of networking opportunities were you able to take advantage of as a Hofstra student?
The School of Education offers incredible support to their students, with professors, advisors, and supervisors guiding you throughout your learning/student observing and student teaching.  The Office of Field Placement and the Office of Educational Support Services were wonderful resources with regard to requirements needed for graduation and New York state certification.  I felt I learned the most from coming together with other students to discuss what was going on in the classrooms we were placed in.  Those connections also led to networking in the future, as we were placed in several different school districts over the course of two years.

As a member of Phi Sigma Sigma sorority at Hofstra University, I was presented with incredible philanthropic experiences that have stayed with me today.  In addition, it helped me to build on my confidence and leadership qualities that I still use today.  It also presented incredible networking opportunities, as many of the members were also Education majors who are now in the field.  We still keep in touch, sharing lesson plans, ideas, and resources throughout the school year. 

Congratulations on receiving “highly effective” APPR rating two years in a row! What about Hofstra’s preparation programs helped you to be successful in terms of this assessment?
As teachers, we strive to promote student achievement by providing a safe, fun learning environment for our students.  Creating lessons and activities that are both meaningful and exciting is a goal that I strived for while studying at Hofstra.  Promoting higher-level thinking and using a variety of teaching styles and strategies were areas that were covered extensively while I studied at Hofstra.  Application of those initial skills and learning helped me to become the teacher I am today.

How has your knowledge of STEM education aided in the shaping of your class curricula?  How has it been acknowledged by your administrators?
Differentiated instruction and integrated lessons are essential to successful teaching programs.  Over the years, I have worked hard to develop learning experiences for my students that tap into the incredible technology that we have at our fingertips.  Recently, my Superintendent asked me to pilot a program with Verizon, where my students received Android Tablets to use for half of the school year.  This program provided incredible learning experiences for my students incorporating technology into our lessons.  In addition, I was asked to present to our School Board on using technology as teaching tool and using data to drive differentiated instruction. Next year, my students will be using Achieve3000, a web-based reading program that provides differentiated online instruction to improve students’ reading and writing, and prepare them for college and career success.

What are your long-term goals?  What advice do you have for those seeking certification at the elementary level?
I am currently preparing to participate in an Administration Master’s program in September, in hopes of furthering my understanding of the educational system and the leadership needed to make a school successful. I plan on continuing to teach in the incredible Bethpage School District as a 4th grade teacher next year, entering my 15th year as an elementary educator. My school, Kramer Lane Elementary School, was awarded the National Blue Ribbon this year.  This award recognizes public and private elementary, middle, and high schools where students perform at very high levels or where significant improvements are being made in students' academic achievement.  I am proud to be a part of such an incredible school community.

I have always wanted to be a teacher.  The best advice I can give anyone seeking certification at the elementary level is to follow your dream.  Immerse yourself in any opportunity to work with young children.  Understand how their minds work, experiment with different ways to teach and reach them.  Don’t be afraid to ask questions and learn from your mistakes.  And never stop learning.

Sara (Lorenz) Dionne

B.A. in Elementary Education, ’00
M.A. in Elementary Education: MST (now STEM), ’05
Oakdale, NY