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Alumni News

Claire Lombardo-Miller '02

After graduating from Smith, Claire Lombardo-Miller '02 pursued her Masters in Speech-Language Pathology at Boston University. She has been an SLP at The Learning Center for the Deaf, a day and residential school for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing, since 2004. Claire works with students of all ages, but focuses primarily on children from infancy to 5th grade. Claire writes, "My work focuses on language-based therapy in American

Sign Language, written English, and spoken English. I also present on Deaf/HOH related topics to provide training and support to area professionals. When I'm not at work, I'm officiating weddings as a Justice of the Peace and taking as much time as I can with my four-year-old twins."

What is your current job?

I am a Speech-Language Pathologist for Deaf and Hard of Hearing children age 0-22 at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, MA (www.tlcdeaf.org). Most of my work is with children from birth to grade 5. Though it is commonly thought that the job of an SLP is to purely work on speech (articulation) that is actually only a small portion of my job. My primary focus is on language remediation in a child's primary and/or secondary language, be it American Sign Language, written English, or spoken English. With the rise in the use of hearing technologies, such as cochlear implants, I find that my work with younger populations of deaf children is focusing increasingly on aural rehabilitation. However, it is a strong belief of mine that a foundation in American Sign Language facilitates the development of a spoken language, so it is a pleasure of mine to incorporate the complexities of both spoken and visual languages into my daily work.

How did Smith prepare you for this work?

My time at Smith prepared me for my professional future in more ways that I can aptly describe. But if I had to narrow it down to the main contributors to my preparations, I'd have to mention my student teaching practicum (in Kindergarten at the SCCS), a Praxis internship in Audiology at Clarke School for the Deaf, and (of course) the breadth and strength of the coursework available to me as a student in the dept. of Education and Child Study.

At Smith, there is also a consistent emphasis on becoming a strong writer -- with the ability to comb through and evaluate research, think critically, effectively explain ideas, and ask provocative questions to stimulate others' thinking. This emphasis on becoming a strong written communicator is something that has helped to form who I am today as a professional in the field of Deaf education.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?

Every day is new. I think the phrase "never a dull moment" might have been invented by someone in my line of work! I have had the privilege of working with a population of people with a rich history, beautiful language, and a passion for who they are. I have had a lot to learn (and still do), but I am inspired by those that work and learn with me every day. I also am lucky enough to have worked with hundreds of children and their families. Some of these children I have watched grow up. To see a child grow in the ability to express herself and fully access her world, and to see each parent's journey along the way; that is probably the greatest reward.

What are some of the greatest challenges?

Especially in my first few years, the language and cultural learning curves were tremendous. Even still, 9 years after I started, learning continues (as it should). I am also now learning to balance the demands of my work in deaf education with those of a new business as a MA Justice of the Peace. And every day I also face the joys and challenges of being a working mother of four-year-old twins. My number one passion and joy in life is my children, so making sure I have the physical time and mental energy to be with them is something I try to remain conscious of, even when work has me feeling like I might go off the deep end!

What recommendations do you have for Smith students looking to pursue this line of work?

This field is one that I feel I was made for, and I can only hope great educators of the future turn to deaf education. As in any social service field, you need a great deal of persistence, willingness to take different perspectives, and you need to be okay with the ups and downs. As with any large goal, set small goals for yourself along the way. Be realistic and know that, even though you are a super-Smithie, you are still only human and things may take time. Seek a mentor for support and guidance - there are a number of Smith alumnae in the field of deaf education. Find us and we'll be there to help!

Marria Carrington '95

Marria Carrington M.Ed ’95, worked for years as a math coach for the Holyoke Public Schools. She has recently taken over as the math coach for the Wildwood Elementary School in Amherst, Massachusetts.

How did Smith prepare you for your current role?

Student teaching at the Campus School opened my eyes to the intellectual nature of teaching. Jan Syzmaszek modeled for me what it means to be an educator, someone who continues to learn and focuses on understanding each and every student. She encouraged me to attend math professional development after my first year of teaching and that started me on the path to becoming a math coach.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?

One of the most rewarding aspects of my job is bringing my excitement and love of math to a wide range of classrooms and teachers. Collaborating with my colleagues around the lessons to teach, the questions to ask and the mathematics that we want students to engage with are activities that I find intellectually challenging and fulfilling. It is most rewarding when a teacher comments that she hadn’t thought about something before or that my support helped her teaching and in turn the students learning.

What are some of the greatest challenges in your work?

The greatest challenge is trying to support and help teachers who may not want to engage in the work. In my experience, these teachers are a small minority and when given time to develop a trusting relationship, they start to open up their classroom and practice to me. I have learned that working with adult learners is similar to working with students. One has to build a relationship based on mutual respect, figure out where the learner is in their own development and understanding and then strive to create situations that allow the learner to question his/her own assumptions and understandings so new knowledge can be assimilated.

What advice do you have for Smith students who want to consider a career in coaching?

My advice for Smith students who may want to be math coaches is to be a continuous learner and to develop leadership skills. We do not receive enough education through our master’s or bachelor’s degrees to truly be equipped to teach on the highest level. Collaboration is key and I encourage you to advocate for math professional development and opportunities to visit and plan with other teachers in your school.

Sarah Pitzer Frenette, BA 1997, MEd 1998

What is your current job?

I am currently employed as a visiting instructor in the Psychology and Education Department at Mount Holyoke College and the Coordinator of Teacher Licensure at Mount Holyoke, Hampshire and Amherst Colleges. I have been engaged in this rewarding work with pre-service teachers for 6 years. Teaching courses focusing on literacy development and collaborating with local public school partners to support the development of a new generation of public school teachers has become my passion.

How did Smith prepare you for this work?

My undergraduate and graduate work at Smith coupled with my experience teaching elementary school in a public school classroom prepared me well for this work. I am able to draw upon my memories of my preparation for teaching at Smith as I engage with students, teachers, faculty members and curriculum. Each day I look into the face of practicum students and am reminded of what it felt like to have my entire teaching career in front of me. These students that I work with are fresh and eager to enter the teaching profession. They are filled with wonder, excitement and great hope for the future of public schooling in this country.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?

The list of rewards is long. I feel lucky to find moments each day that renew my energy and remind me of the importance of this work. Today’s reward came in the form of a classroom observation in a local first grade. The practicum student that I was observing is entering her lead teaching weeks in the classroom. I had the opportunity to sit back and marvel in her strong teacher presence. She was calm, consistent, nurturing, effective and positive with all of the first grade learners.

The reward yesterday came in the form of an informal gathering of 30 students eating pizza and supporting one another in their development as beginning teachers. Students considering teacher licensure as well as those nearing the end of their programs were discussing their experiences in the licensure program. Time and time again students remarked that they felt incredibly well supported by our program and never felt like they were on their own.

The reward last week came from a conversation with a second year teacher in a local urban school. This teacher graduated from Smith with an MAT in 2011 and is currently teaching first grade in a classroom with 27 students and no adult support. I regularly spend time in her classroom during literacy instruction and we meet often to reflect on her work with the children. Our conversations are driven by the teacher’s questions and are a rich example of the power of collaboration. We are working as a team to fine-tune her reading and writing workshop and will pilot a digital story project combining informational writing and visual art next month.

I wonder what the most rewarding moment will be tomorrow...

What are some of the greatest challenges?

The greatest challenge that I face professionally is the same challenge that all teachers face. Each day we need to make decisions that will allow us to maintain the integrity of our educational programs and meet the needs of our learners with the limited resources that are available. Responding to the changing requirements of DESE, the changing roles of faculty members, the needs of our students and the needs of our public school partners is a tall order. There are days when this feels next to impossible. Luckily our program is made up of flexible, collaborative and creative educators that are dedicated to their work and the success of our pre-service teachers.

What recommendations do you have for Smith students looking to pursue this line of work?

Time and again I am reminded that good teaching is good teaching at any level. I was pleasantly surprised when I realized that teaching college juniors is not all that different from teaching second graders. The processes of relationship building, planning, modeling, scaffolding, differentiating, gradually releasing responsibility, collecting data, analyzing data to inform instructional decisions, providing specific feedback are surprisingly similar. Making the transition from an elementary school classroom to higher education was one that I was ready for once I had spent several years immersed in elementary schools.

My recommendations for those interested in preparing future educators is to build and maintain relationships across campus and within the local community, to welcome new learning experiences in any form and to remain hopeful for the future. Hope works wonders and I am incredibly fortunate to be surrounded by faculty members, college students, local teachers, administrators and school-aged children that are hopeful for the future of education.

Anne Duquette '00

Anne Duquette '00 is presently teaching high school students who are on the autism spectrum in a New York City public school. She is also studying at Bank Street College in the Leadership for Educational Change program, with a focus in special education.

What is your current job?

My current job is a special education teacher for students on the autism spectrum in a New York City public high school.

How did Smith prepare you for this work?

Smith taught me to be a leader and to take initiative. For example, I saw a need in my school for a club for the female students, and started a Girl Scout troop.

Smith also taught me to be an advocate. I have students who are nonverbal, or who have a difficult time advocating for themselves. I try to be a "voice" for these students. When I perceive that a situation is unfair for a student, I will speak up, take action, and even push the envelope. I have been teaching my students self-advocacy skills, which has been a very meaningful experience.

Smith taught me to be a lifelong learner. This is important, as there is constantly new research in my field.

Finally, the rigor of the Smith workload prepared me for the heavy workload of being a special education teacher.

What are some of the most rewarding aspects of your job?

Hands down, my students are the rewards of my job. They put a smile on my face; I have learned a lot from my students over the years. I have even gotten to know some of their families quite well over the years; this is very rewarding.

What are some of the greatest challenges?

One of the challenges of working for the New York City Department of Education is maneuvering my way through the vast bureaucracy; this requires patience. It is also challenging to work with many co-workers of different backgrounds and outlooks on life; this requires patience as well.

What recommendations do you have for Smith students looking to pursue this line of work?

A Smith student who is interested in becoming a special education teacher should work in this field for at least a summer. Authentic experience in a classroom, day to day, over a period of time, is a way to learn about teaching hands-on and to learn if this field is a good match. When I was at Smith, I volunteered in a public school for students with special needs during my J-terms and during my summers. These experiences confirmed for me that this was the career that I wanted to pursue.

Ali Emerson ’12

Ali Emerson ’12 is currently teaching at an all-girls charter school in the south Bronx. She teaches math, reading, English and social studies to fourth graders at the Bronx Global Learning Institute for Girls.

For the International Day of the Girl Child (October 11th), her class wrote letters to the United Nations. Emerson said, “I thought it would be a good opportunity- since the girls are in a single sex school - to learn about some of the conditions regarding women's education around the world. So many girls were angered and they all wrote letters to the United Nations Girls’ Education Initiative." To Ali’s surprise, a group from the U.N. came to interview her students and put their work online.

See their work and meet the students here>

We were also able to speak with Ali and ask her some questions about her experiences at Smith.

What is your educational background? What was your major?

I got my bachelors from Smith in Education and French. I focused on secondary education and post-colonial studies (unofficially) within my French major.

What made you decide to come to Smith?

I was a very good high school student and I was somewhat obsessive when it came to the whole “college decision” process. I therefore was interviewed at twelve different colleges and universities the summer before my senior year. At each interview, I had a list of questions that I would ask the admissions officer. One of the first questions was “How would you describe the typical __________ student?” When I asked my interviewer that question, she responded with: “edgy, opinionated, intelligent, and bold.” I remember those words sticking with me as not only unique, but also inspirational. Ultimately, it was between Smith and Vassar (Vassar has a beautiful campus). However, Poughkeepsie somewhat terrifies me and I loved Northampton, so it was a pretty easy decision. I applied ED to Smith and got in the day before my birthday. I really had my ups and downs at Smith (academically and personally) but I’m really glad I ended up going there.

What inspired/drove you to do the work you're now pursuing?

There are so many levels to this answer; I don’t know where to begin. I guess I remember myself in high school daydreaming about teaching the classes I was in. I would imagine myself in the front of the classroom urging discussion and interacting with kids. I guess that’s kind of odd, but I think I’ve always known deep down that I wanted to teach. When I went to Smith, I became a French major right off the bat. I had always wanted to do that. However, in my sophomore year I began thinking about how it would be cool to get my teaching licensure for high school so that I could ultimately teach. I therefore signed up for my first Education class my sophomore year and discovered that I had a very profound and deep fascination with Education and its power and how it works in systems. I kept taking my required courses for licensure. When I took Sam’s (Professor Sam Intrator) class my second semester sophomore year, I decided to forgo going abroad so I could pick the field up as a second major. My specific interests in multicultural education came from taking not only my French post-colonial classes, but also from taking Lucy’s (Professor Lucy Mule) classes. I went in thinking it would be nice to become a French teacher and I came out with several passions and absolutely no idea where I should go with them.

How did your education and work background prepare you for this line of work?

Well as I said above, the professors and classes I had really shaped my educational philosophies and beliefs. My French major and interest in linguistics have also helped shaped those interests. However, I think I initially have always been interested in education because of my educational history pre-Smith. I grew up moving a lot and I therefore went to several schools. I started school in the U.K. and went straight to first grade rather than going to kindergarten. This was because in the U.K., they start kindergarten when they’re four, and my parents wanted me to be with kids my own age. That meant that when I went back to the states, I just stayed in the same grade. It also meant that I was a year younger than my classmates (ironic - I always wonder why my parents didn’t think about that). When I moved to Massachusetts, I started my fourth grade year at a school called Oak Street Elementary. I hated it there and got picked on a lot. I had learned that there was a charter school which offered both French and Latin. I had hesitations about going there because, at Oak Street, is had a “nerdy” reputation. However, when I visited France and realized that I wanted to learn a new language, I enrolled there. I was there from grades 5-8. Then, I started off at a giant public high school. I really loved it there, as I had found my niche. But I moved between my sophomore and junior years to Florida and went to a very small private school. That was a really hard move. Most of my classmates had known each other since they were in pre-k. I also ended up fitting in just fine though.

I therefore had a lot of experiences within different schools. These experiences were both academic and social I think that’s what has sparked my interest in student engagement and self-esteem issues. All of this past history in combination with my classes at Smith have really molded my interests and helped me decide to pursue teaching and Education as an academic field (if only I knew how to consolidate all of my interests…).

Is there any advice you would give to graduating students who wish to work in a similar field?

Be prepared to hate the bureaucratic system and to often feel helpless and hopeless. You go into teaching with all of these goals: “Oh I’m going to inspire my students,” “I’m going to overcome these problems.” But you still have to worry about testing (we spend an hour and a half each day on the three subjects my students will be tested on this year), you still have to “look good,” you still have to work within these crumbling rules that are actually hurting students and know that-- right now-- there’s nothing you can do to fix it. It’s really upsetting because adults spend so much time thinking about the systems and how it should work and what it should look like, that they end up ignoring the most vital aspect of the job: the students. That’s been a huge challenge for me (I get really angry and think it’s unjust), but I think it’s important to know that big differences start out small. A teacher really can make a difference in a person’s life and that’s got to mean something. Maybe one day I’ll go into policy or something, but right now, I’m just trying to keep positive and do my job- which is to inspire kids and help them believe in themselves.

Taylor Stevens

Taylor Stevens is a recent MAT graduate and a Project Coach Fellow.

What is your educational background? What was your major?

During my undergrad experience, I majored in Spanish and Psychology at Williams College. After college, I went to Smith for the MAT program where I focused on Secondary Spanish Education. I worked as a student teacher at Amherst High School and Middle School and was a fellow in Project Coach at Smith.

What made you decide to come to Smith?

I was drawn to Smith specifically because of the Project Coach fellowship. I was very interested in working with youth in inner cities through sport development, and I loved the idea of getting to do this at the same time as getting my MAT at Smith. I also love Northampton and Western Massachusetts, so I was inclined to stay in the area.

What inspired/drove you to do the work you're now pursuing?

I have always been drawn to teaching, but I think the program at Smith solidified this desire. I chose a private school to begin my career because I am able to coach as well as teach and participate in lots of aspects of school life like weekend camping trips and being an adviser to a small group of students. The professors I had at Smith were definitely an inspiration to me to pursue teaching as a career now.

How did your education and work background prepare you for this line of wok?

The classes I took at both Williams and Smith prepared me very well for what I am doing right now. The most practical experience I had, however, was student teaching at Smith. Being in the classroom everyday, but with the added help from a mentor teacher was incredibly useful.

Is there any advice you would give to graduating students who wish to work in a similar field?

For students looking into teaching, I would say to interview at as many places as possible so that you can really get the feel for the school. For me, it happened almost like college searching where you just get "that feeling." I would suggest really looking at who you will work with because as much time as you spend with the kids, great colleagues are really what make a huge difference

Kayleigh Colombero '08

Kayleigh Colombero is the new director of Project Coach.

What is your educational background? What was your major?

I was lucky enough to attend my dream and reach school—Smith College. I decided I wanted to go when I was only ten years old. Although my mother warned me that only "really smart, really rich" girls could go there, I was determined. I worked so hard in high school with Smith as my goal. When I got accepted I was pleased, but it wasn't until I got my financial aide package that I cried for joy. At Smith, I majored in English Literature and Education. I also spent a semester studying abroad in England. After Smith, I received a Master's Degree in English Literature for Teachers at Western New England University.

What made you decide to come to Smith?

Attending Smith was one of the most meaningful experiences of my life. Smith gave me the opportunity to become a young, educated female leader early on in life. Furthermore, it was during my time at Smith, attending education classes and performing service learning in the Springfield Schools, that I realized my passion for urban education. From my first year at Smith to the day I graduated I often thought about how wonderful it would be to return to this community. I am so pleased to have the opportunity to once again be a part of Smith College.

What inspired you to work with college and graduate level education programs?

While I was at Smith, I first began working with Project Coach as a mentor and tutor for the teenage coaches. I always loved the mission of the program, its capacity to change the lives of Springfield youth, and the opportunity to showcase how amazing teenagers in Springfield are. I continued working with the program while teaching and was eagerly awaiting the opportunity to become involved in a significant way.Having the opportunity to lead a program with so many great aspects, the ability to reach so many young people, and the potential to continue to grow and improve is something that I found veryexciting. Knowing the program and the services its provides (both in academics and sports), I am thrilled to be able to deliver such high caliber programming to such a deserving city. I am also very attracted to the opportunity to coordinate possible experiences for Smith students both with Project Coach and with the Urban Education Initiative. I understand first hand how transformative these experiences can be and I hope to provide them for a vast array of Smithies.

How did your education/work background prepare you for this line of work?

I think my experiences working in the Springfield Public Schools will be invaluable in my work with both UEI and PC. Understanding the amazing benefits and the very real challenges of teaching in an urban setting will better prepare me to guide Smith students into and through this work. Also, having lived in Springfield for years worked with hundreds of teens in Springfield, I hope to bring a deeper understandingto Project Coach about how to best help the youth of the city and how to help build a more sustainable community of educated, young leaders.

Is there any advice you would give to graduating students who wish to work in a similar field?

The first piece of advice I would give any students going into education is to find what sustains you. I honestly believe that working in education, particularly urban education, can be the most difficult, trying, exhausting experience. It also provides more satisfaction and benefits than any career I can think of. When one student really thanks you, when you get a letter two years later about how much you mattered, or when you watch a student who really struggled flip their tassel, there is no better feeling in the world. At the same time, prioritizing your personal life and things that relax you (yoga, running, reading, whatever) is crucial. Burnout is real but can be avoided. Get a really good mentor, take care of yourself, and write in a journal or blog about the good and bad you experience.

Emily Neuburger '02

Emily earned her M.A.T. in English from Smith in 2002. She recently published Show Me a Story: 40 Craft Projects and Activities to Spark Children's Storytelling, released in August of 2012 by Storey Publishing.

"It is a curriculum-rich book with projects and activities that nurture children's natural inclination to tell their own imaginative stories. The crafts, games, unique activities, and prompts encourage children to shape their everyday imaginings into rich narratives. I intend for it to be an inspiring companion for anyone who does creative work with children of all ages."

Can you give us a description of your book?

It is a curriculum-rich book with projects and activities that nurture children's natural inclination to tell their own imaginative stories. The crafts, games, unique activities, and prompts encourage children to shape their everyday imaginings into rich narratives. I intend for it to be an inspiring companion for anyone who does creative work with children of all ages.

What inspired you to write it?

I adored my full-time teaching position, but when my first daughter was born, I decided to leave work in order to be home with my new baby. While parenting both of my children full-time, I observed their emerging creativity and I was inspired to reconnect with my own art and writing. As an educator, I became extremely interested in how art informs writing and how writing informs art and how they intersect for each child. This inspired me to develop creative projects for my children, which led to the creation of my blog, redbirdcrafts.com. Once I began blogging, I received wonderful, supportive feedback from readers and colleagues, and I decided to pitch my book idea to publishers. My two creative, thoughtful, spirited, bright-eyed, inquisitive children were my true inspiration from the very beginning. And, of course, they continue to inspire me each day.

How did your Smith education prepare you for this line of work?

I left Smith College feeling clear that as a teacher, I must nurture each student's unique, educational journey. I embarked on my teaching career with a passion for finding what intrinsically motivates students and a determination to provide a means of authentic investigation and exploration. As I reflect, I realize that one of the most important lessons, from my time at Smith, was learning that in order to be an effective teacher, I must also be an effective learner. This has always resonated with me, and it's why I was pouring through educational theory books while nursing my young daughter. It is why I get a surge of excitement when I witness creativity and imagination in my classroom.

Do you have any advice for Smith graduates, as they enter the work world? Do you have any advice specifically for those who would like to write?

Yes! 1. Be willing to continuously revaluate your work. Experiment with shifting the focus of your project. Dig deeper, and don't be afraid to set parts of it aside in search of the heart and soul of your project. 2. Send your creations out into the world. Mail a copy to a friend, start a blog, or submit it to a magazine. Be confident! 3. Mindfully search for a bit of inspiration each day. Consider documenting it (with a photograph, drawing, or a little note) and be open to letting it inform your work.