She Wants to Be the Teacher Students Remember
Gabriella Rose was motivated to become an educator by her fourth grade teacher. But not in the usual way. “He was awful,” she says. “He was boring and didn’t seem to like teaching.”
One day, Gaby – as she is called – watched as her twin sister’s class enjoyed an outdoor activity with a creative teacher who made learning fun. At the same time, her class worked indoors on a dull project “That was a defining moment for me,” says Gaby. “I decided I was going to become a teacher and be better than the one I had.”
Gaby received her associate’s degree in Teacher Education with highest honors last winter and will be a valedictorian at the virtual Celebration of Graduates this month. Remarkably, the Totowa resident attended PCCC full-time, maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA, and completed her program in less than two years while also working full-time in a busy retail store.
A 2019 graduate of Passaic Valley High School, Gaby initially did not plan to attend PCCC. “Going to a community college is sometimes looked down on,” she explains. Though family and friends who knew PCCC encouraged her to give it a try, she enrolled at a four-year college instead.
“That didn’t work out,” says Gaby. “The college just wasn’t right for me.” She decided to try PCCC after all. “I’m so glad I did. I had an amazing experience here,” she says. “The professors are excellent and really want to help you.”
Because Gaby graduated in the top 15 per cent of her high school class, she qualified for the NJ Stars program, which covers tuition costs for students who attend a community college. “NJ Stars saved me a lot of money,” says Gaby.
The future educator appreciated professor Clifford Garner who helped her hone her writing skills in a composition class. “He was hard, but he pushed me. I owe my good writing to him,” she says.
Gaby was also impressed that history professor Petar Drakulich – one of her favorites – knew her by name. “He teaches in a lecture hall with a lot of students, so I didn’t think he knew me, she said.”
But she does have a strategy to share with other students who want to stand out to their professors. “I introduce myself to professors on the first day of class to help them remember me,” she said. She also recommends taking a seat in the front of the room and participating in class regularly to be more visible.
Gaby will pursue her bachelor’s degree at her dream school – The College of New Jersey – as an elementary education major with a concentration in iSTEM (integrative science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).
Her career goal is to teach grades k-3, and she considers her current job as a kindergarten counselor at the Boys and Girls Club good preparation. Gaby is also grateful to her PCCC advisor, Georgina Mencher. “She gave me the opportunity to be a mentor for the education program at PCCC. She was an amazing outlet and really pushed me to be the best student I could be.”
Gaby believes that in order to really connect with their students, teachers should show they are human. “Even if that means students see your frustration, sometimes, they see you are real.” She also recommends supporting students outside the classroom. “If a student knows you came to his baseball game or concert, they remember that.”
A theater enthusiast, Gaby has acted in high school and local amateur theater productions and believes her theatrical background is an asset to a teacher. “When you walk into a classroom and stand in front of a class, you are onstage,” she says.
With her creative ideas about education and a strong foundation from PCCC, Gaby is confident about her future and excited about her career choice. “I want to be the teacher that students remember.”
Written by Linda Telesco