Thomas Jason Altieri
Q & A:
1. What was your favorite class, who was your favorite professor, or what is your fondest memory of Hofstra?
I had so many great classes at Hofstra. My favorites were archaeology and philosophy courses, both of which I took throughout my time at the University. Likewise, I had amazing professors that were really passionate about and well versed in their subject matter; Dr. Christopher Matthews, Dr. Daniel Varisco in the Anthropology Department and Professor Ralph Acampora to name a few, some of whom I am still in contact with. One of my fondest memories was participation in an excavation as part of Dr. Matthews’ field school where we contributed to real public archaeological research and discourse.
2. What was your first job after graduating Hofstra, and what was the most valuable thing you learned there?
After I graduated, I began working in Cultural Resource Management, which is government-mandated archaeology. I worked for Louis Berger Group’s archaeology subdivision and the projects took me to investigations and excavations in Virginia, Washington, D.C. and New York. This and other opportunities, as well as what I learned at Hofstra, prepared me for my current career as a high school social studies teacher.
3. What is your field of specialty, and how did you come to work in the industry?
Education and research were the common traits of jobs I’ve worked, particularly in the fields of archaeology and history. After working in the Met’s Education Department and conducting my own archaeology education programs, I realized that I was best suited and most fulfilled in imparting my knowledge and experiences in the aforementioned areas in the high school classroom, where I felt it would have the most direct impact. I also coordinate a high school volunteer program at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo where I educate students on our animal collection and take them on conservation projects around the state.
4. What advice would you give Hofstra students?
Work hard and commit fully to the things that are worth it. You will have to compromise and make sacrifices in life, but if you stay committed you will persevere in your career and in life.
5. In one word, how would you describe Hofstra?
6. How has your BA in archaeology helped you?
My degree in archaeology has not only helped me conduct actual excavation and contribute to research, but also it enhances my ability to teach high school social studies by relating real-world experience to the historical context of what we’re learning. The science that I learned from working toward my bachelor’s degree has also been used in my work at the zoo for both education and conservation field work.
7. What is a typical day like for a Conservation Discovery Corps/Educator?
A typical day as a coordinator for the CDC program involves me scheduling students for information stations at different animal exhibits and taking them off grounds to do conservation projects such as wild animal surveys, invasive species removal and bird banding. I also conduct offsite education programs with students where we bring animals to educate the public on wildlife and the zoo’s mission.
8. What is your favorite part of your job at Beardsley Zoo?
There are so many great things about working at the zoo, but one of my favorite things is watching some of the students I teach in high school join the zoo program and develop as individuals. I find this to be very rewarding and a testament to the kind of impact I want to have on students entering the post-high school world.
Thomas Jason (T.J.) Altieri grew up on Long Island, NY, and attended Farmingdale Senior High School. He always had a passion for scholarship and excelled in school even while participating in part-time work and a demanding internship at a film studio in Glen Cove, NY. After graduating high school, T.J. was accepted to Hofstra University where he majored in anthropology with a focus on archaeology. Through this major and Hofstra’s engaging courses he really came to relish the academic discourse, debate and inquiry of higher education. Following up on this passion for learning, T.J. joined Hofstra’s Archaeological Field School for two seasons at King Manor in Queens, NY, the former home of Constitution framer and early abolitionist Rufus King.
After his time at Hofstra, T.J. began working in Cultural Resource Management, which took him on government archaeology projects all over the East Coast. As a result of this, he gained experience and forged relationships that went on to support him in later endeavors. In fall 2006, he applied for and accepted a position at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and worked in the Education Department where he coordinated all family tours, programs and art classes, both at the museum and offsite. This experience was invaluable and exposed him to the field of public school education where he could connect his archaeology and museum experiences to the teaching profession with an aim to both educate and inspire students. He pursued a master’s degree in teaching at Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, while engaging in part-time work as an educator and high school volunteer coordinator and conservationist at Connecticut’s Beardsley Zoo, where he works to this day. After QU’s intensive graduate program and accompanying field work inside the public school classroom, T.J. was offered a social studies teacher position at Danbury High School in Connecticut, which he currently retains. Aside from work, T.J. enjoys writing, cooking and expedition kayaking, and even organized a team for Kayak for a Cause, a charity event where people paddle across Long Island Sound. His time at Hofstra and his ensuing experiences have shaped his successful career in education, and T.J. continues to strive for personal fulfillment and further accomplishments in his career and beyond.