There was no time to rest for Mount Saint Mary College senior Nicole Cervone of Shirley, N.Y., who started a job in the Washingtonville School District on Monday, May 17 – less than a week before graduating.
Cervone, a Math major with a certification in Childhood Education and Students with Disabilities, is now serving as a special education leave replacement in a self-contained third- and fourth-grade classroom.
Working in the Washingtonville district was a sort of homecoming for Cervone, who had recently completed her student teaching in the district.
The experience so far has been wonderful, she said.
"My favorite part about my job is teaching and learning from my amazing students," explained Cervone. "I love children because they always keep things interesting and fun. There is never a day where I don't have a smile on my face when working with children!"
Though infection rates are falling in New York, COVID-19 continues to impact education throughout the state. However, Cervone says her training at the Mount has aided her in overcoming many of the challenges associated with the pandemic.
"COVID-19 has really changed everything about teaching," she noted. "I don't think anyone could have guessed that we would be teaching from a computer and to students in person...sometimes even at the same time. I currently have students in person and virtual and this is a tough thing to balance. You need to keep all students in mind and make sure they are getting a worthwhile learning experience no matter where they are. The Mount helped me with this because even before COVID-19, the Mount's Education Division worked very hard to ensure that teacher candidates are exposed to many different kinds of technology. Many of the things I learned about during my years at the Mount have come in handy with distance learning."
Cervone's career at the Mount was a busy one: in addition to being a dedicated educator, she was also a great athlete.
"Playing lacrosse at the Mount was the single best decision I ever made," Cervone explained. "My grades would not have been as good if it weren't for my coaches...They really drive home the idea that we are student-athletes, so we are students first. We have weekly academic meetings in order to make sure we are on track with our school work."
In addition to joining Chi Alpha Sigma, the athletic honor society; Kappa Delta Pi, the Education honor society; and Kappa Mu Epsilon, the Mathematics honor society; Cervone was a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee since she was a freshman and the president of the committee during her senior year. Cervone was also named a Ralph Scholar and an Aquinas Scholar, meaning she was in the top 5 percent of her class. She also received the Outstanding Leadership Award from the Mount earlier this month, was named a top Math student by the division, and received the sacrament of Confirmation as a Catholic by Fr. Gregoire Fluet, chaplain and director of Campus Ministry, in 2019.
While every semester helped her to prepare for her future as an educator, Cervone says it was her senior year in the Mount's Division of Mathematics that sticks out most in her mind. Her senior coordinating seminar class, she said, featured many assignments that were geared towards helping students to succeed in their careers.
"We created an electronic portfolio in order to showcase our greatest skills and work samples that we could use to show future employers," she explained. "Also, throughout the entire semester, we worked on our philosophy of teaching Mathematics paper. This assignment was so helpful for me to organize my ideas on why I want to teach Mathematics and how I will teach it. I have taken these ideas [from my] paper and used them to answer questions in job interviews."
Helping her to flourish throughout her busy years at the college was Christina Alvey, assistant professor of Mathematics and Information Technology.
"She continuously goes above and beyond for her students," said Cervone. "She truly cares about everyone she sees on campus...Dr. Alvey has confidence in her students and has a great ability to simplify things so that they can get a better understanding."
Cervone also credits the Mount's Education program with helping to mold her into the successful educator she is today.
"I truly believe that the Education Division at the Mount does a great job preparing their students by getting them fieldwork opportunities early on in their coursework," she said. "I know many other colleges where students don't start fieldwork until their junior year which sets them behind other people when looking for a job."
With her first post-college teaching job already underway, there hasn't been much time for Cervone to stop and reflect on her four years at the Mount. But there's something that's been on her mind about the college, she said.
"The thing I will miss most about the Mount is making new memories," Cervone explained. "No matter what I was doing or who I was with, I was always making amazing memories that I will cherish forever."
Ultimately, Cervone's dream is to teach in a second-grade general education classroom. But wherever her career takes her, she's happy to go: "I am just getting my foot in the door and am looking forward to where it will lead me," she said.