Students step outside of the classroom
A New Jersey Student Education Association chapter is building at Seton Hall.
The NJSEA, which is a part of the National Education Association (NEA), appoints three to four ambassadors to each college and university in the state. Juniors Sarah Pawlak was appointed in May 2014 and Vikki Hilario was appointed last month as Seton Hall’s state ambassadors. This semester Pawlak, along with the help of a faculty advisor Dr. Lourdes Mitchel, helped to start the Seton Hall chapter of the association.
Her goal after attending a national education convention last year was to set up a support system for aspiring teachers as well as help them build their leadership and teaching skills.
“Our focus is professional development, how to better ourselves in the classroom,” Pawlak said. “But we also have pillars of leadership development and community activism.”
“And networking,” Hilario added.
The association offers networking opportunities with other New Jersey teachers and students who also want to become teachers.
The biggest event the chapter hosted was a trip to the annual teachers’ convention in Atlantic City, where thousands of teachers presented over 400 workshops in a range of topics from technology in the classroom to dealing with complex trauma.
“For me, as an aspiring teacher, to actually be a part of the event that public schools close for two days (for teachers) to go there, it’s a really big deal and a new experience for me,” Hilario said. “I just really liked how resourceful and helpful and practical all the workshops I went to were ‘cause they really contribute to my professional development and journey as a rising educator and it’s just very fun to get to know all the other members and getting to know members from other colleges as well.”
About 30 Seton Hall students connected with other students from many other New Jersey universities and colleges as well as professionals in their desired field. According to Pawlak, this was the most representatives from any one school to attend that first day.
The year before, she had been the first representative of the NEA from Seton Hall to attend a national conference.
“One of the best parts about it is, you go and you see how big the community actually is. A lot of the times teachers feel like they’re all alone, ‘it’s just me and my classroom,’ and it’s not that way at all,” Pawlak said. “There’s a huge community of support that you have that students and teachers don’t realize is there for them that helps you become a better educator because you can grow from the knowledge of people around you.”
The NJSEA is for students who want to be teachers, regardless of their major. Pawlak, president of the association chapter, and most of the e-board are special education, elementary education and social and behavioral sciences majors, while Hilario is a secondary education major with English.
“It is a really fun experience to get involved in the organization that we’ll eventually as teachers be a part of in the future,” Hilario said. “You’re already going to be a part of it so why not start early.”
It is the first semester for the organization as an active chapter on campus so it still has provisional club status with the Student Government Association.
There are around 45 students who have signed up with the state so far and membership has been growing month by month, according to Pawlak.
Emily Balan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.