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In Focus: Melissa Guarriello '08

Tell us about your undergraduate experience at Hofstra in the School of Education, Health and Human Services?

Tell us about your experience working as a paraprofessional in Half Hollow Hills School District and what that position entailed.

 I start worked as a paraprofessional in Half Hollow Hills in May of 2006-June 2008. My experience as a para has given me experience with children from Kindergarten through the fifth grade. In each capacity, I worked closely with the teacher and students developing and modifying assignments based on their educational needs.

Tell us about the rewards and challenges of working with students who have disabilities.

My experience working with students with special needs has enabled me to utilize my communication skills in a different form. Interaction with parents as well as students is a significant part of educating students with special needs. Conferencing with parents for information, as well as counseling, has enabled me to build a rapport; one that helps to build a strong relationship between all parties. This sense of trust is essential for the educational process to evolve successfully. By employing my sense of compassion and my organizational skills, I have been able to effect a change in behavioral as well as academic performance through positive reinforcement and guided instruction. The challenging aspect of working with students with special needs is determining the best practices and methods to use for these children. I love the challenge of trying to come up with a behavioral plan or modify an assignment to best meet the needs of the child.

Tell us about what it was like to get a position with the first graders at Northport right after your December graduation.

I was hired as a leave replacement in Northport at Pulaski Road School and this was an amazing opportunity. Getting the position there was unbelievable and a wonderful learning experience. The students, staff and faculty were terrific. I learned a lot from my principal Jeff Haubrich and my Special Education chairperson Allyson GiaimoIn Northport, I worked as a first grade inclusion teacher. My job was to service students with special needs in two classes. I also worked as an Academic Intervention Services teacher supporting students who were below reading level. As an educator, I differentiated instruction to meet the students' needs in accordance with NY State standards. I regularly collaborated with related service providers, teachers and administration to work on strategies to use with the students in the classroom.;

How did Hofstra help shape your skills for being a special education teacher?

Hofstra provided me with amazing educational classes and field work opportunities. Every professor provided me with the confidence, instruction and necessary tools to be prepared for the classroom. Dr. George Guiliani and Dr. Esther Fusco were always there for me and continue to be mentors and educational icons of mine. I still call them and I am in contact with them. I continue to look to them for guidance in my career.

Tell us about your current job teaching special education at The Waterside Children's Studio School?

Currently I am working as a third grade special education teacher in a collaborative team teaching class at The Waterside Children’s Studio School (PS 317Q) in Rockaway Park. As a special education teacher, I modify the general education curriculum and design students’ learning experiences based on their individualized education plans. I implement behavior plans to promote students academic and social issues. My co-teacher and I share the classroom responsibilities and collaborate regularly to meet the individualized needs of the students. I absolutely love working here. The principal, faculty and staff are warm, welcoming and supportive. All staff is happy and willing to lend a helping hand and collaborate on current trends in education.

Any Hofstra faculty members who have guided you to become the teacher you are today?

Dr. Guiliani and Dr. Fusco have had a tremendous impact on the teacher I have become. They provided me with the necessary mentoring, confidence and motivation to strive to be successful and given me the strategies to be the best.

What's your favorite thing about your job as a special education teacher?

My favorite thing about my job as a special education teacher is the challenge of the day-to-day activities. No two children learn the same nor do they have the same needs. I enjoy learning about what my students’ needs are and creating motivating lesson plans and assignments for them. I also love the feeling of accomplishment when the students are successful at something I have worked hard at with them.

Melissa Guarriello

Childhood Education and Special Education
Dix Hills, New York