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Featuring Amy (Wolff) Beresik '02

Position: Choral Director

School: Dorseyville Middle School, Fox Chapel Area School District

Location: Pittsburgh, PA

Graduate School: Duquesne University

Graduate Program: Music Education

Information on Amy's graduate school experience

(Profiled: December 2011)




♦  How did you connect with this job opportunity?
♦  What attracted you to this position?
♦  What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
♦  What has been your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?
♦  How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
♦  What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
♦  What job search tips would you give to GCC students?


How did you connect with this job opportunity?

Most likely with associations I made while in graduate school at Duquesne University.  It was here that I had the chance to meet and work with with some of the area's most prolific and successful educators.  In our district, nearly all of our music teachers are DU grads and many are adjunct faculty and guest clinicians there. 


What attracted you to this position?

The standard of excellence in the district is very high.  The music program is well known and is well-supported by the community.  The program K-12 is collaborative, sequential, grounded in solid pedagogy and turns out great student musicians. We are   blessed to have such collegiality among our faculty members in that they are willing to work together to benefit all aspects of the program.


What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?  

 1. Having some autonomy in developing my curriculum and program; growing and developing as a professional  

2. The structure to each day  

3. The gratification that the kids get when they've worked hard to sound good and it pays off  

4.  The opportunity to take kids in an age group that is very underestimated and challenge them to take their talent to the next level - they are capable of amazing things!  

5. The new opportunities and possibilities that await with every new school year.  We have the chance to re-create, refine and re-structure things as needed after reflecting upon their successes and/or challenges. I love the opportunity to change things for the better and continue to learn with each new year. 


What has been/was your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?  

Without a doubt, reconciling myself to the challenges of the school's largest program and all of the EXTRA-musical aspects, i.e. administration, budgeting, time management, P.R., planning around a whole building's worth of activities.  In addition, I was a first-year teacher who followed a teacher who was very established and loved by the kids and community. When things changed, there were many people who were not patient and supportive, so I spent a good deal of time fielding some hurtful situations. I longed for the time when the program would truly be "mine" and I felt more comfortable in my program and teaching. It felt like it would never come, now I'm seven years in and can't believe how fast it has gone!


How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?

My time at GCC impressed upon me the importance (and example) of what professionalism is, helped me to refine my content area, and exposed me to a wide variety of interests that I can now explore through music: literature, history, drama and other cultures. I also feel like the high standards expected of GCC students helped me to set and maintain high standards for myself. In addition, having a personal faith that was nurtured at GCC was essential. I have to lean on the Lord for strength and wisdom every single day - there's no way I could make it through the challenges I've faced without that.


What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?

1. Work hard to be the best you can and do the most with the talents you have. Find opportunities for leadership.  In these times when jobs are at a premium, most resumes won't even be read to the end.  What is on yours that would grab someone's attention and set you apart?  

2. Cultivate your "human touch".  Be very careful to give people your full attention, empathy, and consideration - no matter what their age, circumstance, or background.  Practice writing well and use good manners.  

3. Be flexible!  The classroom experience is constantly changing. Be ready to adapt!  

4. Know your subject inside and out and give yourself opportunities to enrich your knowledge of it. Practice differentiated instruction strategies to meet the needs of all of your learners.  

5. Get behind their eyes. What kind of a room would YOU enjoy spending time in each day?  How would you like to be spoken to? Sit in your classroom seats.  What do you see?  What kind of a "feel" is in the room? Remember that they don't know about whatever "baggage" you're bringing into the it affecting how you come across to them?

 Remember:What most people will remember about you is how you made them feel!


What job search tips would you give to GCC students?  

1. Be distinctive.  

 2. Be relentless in pursuing opportunities, even if they are temporary or you perceive them to be outside of your training area. You can develop skills in many different ways! You'll be establishing a professional network while you're at it and you never know when you'll need something - connections are crucial (and attainable!)  

3.  Continue to hone your skills and stay abreast of the latest research, skills, and methods so you'll be ready to jump in when you have the chance. 



More information about Amy's graduate school experience


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