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Featuring Kate Donatelli '11
Kate Donatelli
Position: Math & Physics Teacher
School: Greater Portland Christian School
Location: South Portland, Maine
(Profiled: November 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/was 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?
One of my friends from high school who graduated the year before I did had been teaching in the position which I am now in. She was relocating to Virginia to be with her fiancé, so she, knowing that I was being led to teach at a private school, mentioned that GPCS was looking for someone who was strong in math. After exploring the website, I visited the school at the end of last year and interviewed. After much prayerful consideration, I knew that it was where God wanted me to be teaching this year.

What attracted you to this position?
The obvious selling point was that I had full assurance that it was God’s will for me to teach in this school. I remember being so nervous after visiting there for the first time, and walking away thinking that it was nothing like what I had expected, but having a strange feeling that God wanted me there. The building has such character, and the people in it are even more amazing. I also loved the prospect of being able to serve in so many different ways while in a private school. I had experienced serving in public schools before, but it is just a different dynamic in a Christian school.

What are the most gratifying aspects of your job?
Connectionsand I mean that in a few different ways. The first way, typical of most teachers, would be seeing students make connections with the material; you can tell when the “light bulb” goes off in their heads, and it is so wonderful to be able to witness their epiphanies! I especially love right now seeing my Geometry students make connections with this material that is all entirely new to them. Secondly, I really enjoy making connections with my students on a personal level. I love being able to pray with them and to openly discuss issues of faith and spirituality. The first few weeks were really rough before they felt comfortable with me, but now I have the great privilege of knowing about some of their joys and trials. It is truly such a blessing to be a part of their lives. Finally, I am so grateful for the connections that I’ve made with other faculty members. They have served me as family, taught me from their vast store of wisdom, and provided such love and encouragement the past several months. Most importantly, though, my connection and relationship with God has only been strengthened through this experience. He has used each day to teach me and mold me and remind me of His love, and that is the most gratifying thing of all.

What has been your biggest challenge as a first-year teacher?
The biggest challenge which I’ve faced so far this year is not becoming discouraged! As I am teaching Geometry, Algebra II, Pre-Calculus, Calculus, and Physics, I have a lot of prep work to do each day, and it is very time consuming. On top of that, classroom management can be frustrating at times, since you need to find that balance of keeping the students under control, but also making the atmosphere comfortable enough so that they can learn to the fullest of their potential. Although it is such a blessing to be able to talk about religion with students, it is heart-breaking to know that some of my students do not know Christ. Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am not just “working through” this first year, but that each day is an opportunity.

How did your time at GCC prepare you for the teaching field?
God worked so wonderfully through my time at Grove City to prepare me for this teaching role. The math program provided me with such a strong basis, which enables me to handle all of the material in the various subjects I am approaching. The education program served me so well, teaching me about all of the things that I am now practicing. Even the little thingslike writing lesson plansare such great skills to have fully developed and honed before entering the classroom. The education department also helped me to weigh the different aspects of teaching in public and private schools, which really helped my transition to GPCSall of my experience prior to this had been in public school, so it was nice to have some insight from professors and fellow students at GCC. Spiritually, Grove City challenged and inspired me so that I can now better serve my students in that sphere.

What advice would you give to a current pre-service teacher in order to better prepare for his or her future classroom?
Follow the example of the Master Teacher, and follow what He says are the greatest of the commandments. Love the Lordserve Him and He will never fail you. In this profession you will need a lot of strength, both physically and mentally/emotionally, but He will provide everything that you need if you trust Him. And the second is closely relatedlove one another. Love your students, care about themnot just about their ability to succeed in your class, but about them as wonderfully created people. Show love to your fellow teachers and the staff members at your school.
Here are some additional tips:
♦  Smile (I don’t buy into the “no smiling before Christmas” rule, or whatever it is…)
♦  Serve to the fullest of your potential.
♦  Be prepared to humble yourself and sacrifice with the intent of getting nothing in return. If you can do that, you will teach your students even more than what you think you are teaching.
♦  Don’t get in the habit of, like I mentioned earlier, thinking that you just have to “get through” your first year of teaching. It will be rough…but cherish it.
♦  Take the time to do all of the homework that you assign to students. Not only will it help to prevent your making mistakes when you guide them, but they will notice if you do everything that you expect them to do.
♦  Give feedback, detailed and as quickly as possible.
♦  Be willing to be taught yourself, by your co-workers, your students, and your God.
♦  As appropriate, do everything possible to involve the parents in the education.
♦  Be patient, and don’t judge.
♦  Establish structure and discipline in your room; don’t be afraid that your students “won’t like you” if you are tough. They need your guidance.
But at the same time… Be flexible--most days, if not all, will bring something unexpected.
♦  Reflect on the improvements you need to make, but give yourself grace and forgiveness to move forward.

If you practice these things now, you’ll be all the more prepared to enter your classroom.

What job search tips would you give to GCC students?
♦  Take advantage of the opportunities and services which Grove City offers, and have an open mind to things outside of that sphere as well.
♦  Go to PERC. Even though I accepted a position from a non-GCC connection, it was such a good experience, and I had several offers from schools that I was in contact with after the event.
♦  Be willing to talk with people, even if you aren’t sure that you would be interested in their school.
♦  Try to relax as much as possible during interviews. Looking over preparation questions is a good idea, but don’t become consumed by them. I remember my first interview at PERCI felt so intimidated by the interviewer and tried to give the textbook answers to things. It was awful. After that, I went into interviews with much more of an open mind, and answered each questions with the honest answer that I thought of then.
♦  Be willing to talk and give details during interviews, most places want to get a feel for who you are. If they do not think that you would be a good fit, then chances are that you probably would not have enjoyed working there either.
♦  Always visit a school before you make a decision about working there.
♦  Ask others what they think you should pursue after graduation; your roommate, friends, family, and professors all may have good insights for where you can best serve.
♦  I would recommend making a list of schools to which you want to apply, making a bunch of copies of reference letters, clearances, résumés, and final observation forms, and then putting together packets along with cover letters and applications (fill out the PA standard app for public schools) to mail out.
♦  Finally, don’t worry if you have no idea what you are going to be doing after graduationthink about it, pray about it, but don’t stress!

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