Ashley Ardinger ’12

JOB TITLE: Special education ICT teacher
ORGANIZATION: The Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology
LOCATION: Manhattan, New York
GRADUATE DEGREE: M.Ed., Teachers College, Columbia University

What was your first position after college? I ended up in the Teaching Residents program at Columbia University’s Teachers College directly after graduating as an educational studies major at Trinity. I had researched various dual-certification and master’s programs and decided upon the TR@TC program for two main reasons. First, the program provides a stipend for students to help alleviate the costs of the graduate degree. Second, it provides support for new teachers over the course of three years: the residency year, the induction year, and the final year. I am now a special educator at The Urban Assembly Gateway School for Technology and am a member of the New York City Department of Education as my school is a public school, although many people believe it is charter or private due to the name. The Urban Assembly schools are public schools with specific learning foci spread throughout all five boroughs that have partnerships with various groups throughout the city. I am also currently working toward a degree in school leadership to eventually work in administration or educational policy

Has a liberal arts education helped you in shaping your career? As a special education teacher, I realize that a liberal arts education has been imperative to my success so far. Since I am teaching in what are called integrated co-teaching environments, I am teaching with general education teachers across five different subjects. Without the knowledge I gained at Trinity, I would feel much less confident teaching Spanish, technology, English, mathematics, and science to high school students. I also appreciate the Educational Studies Department at Trinity because it emphasizes how urban schools are run from an administrative point of view rather than classroom teaching skills.

What aspects of your Trinity experience have been important to advancing your career or graduate school experience? Having a Trinity education has made it easier to transition to teaching in a city environment. Growing up in New Hampshire, I experienced suburban public schools. My involvement in the Hartford community through the educational studies program at Trinity prepared me to interact with students, teachers, and in some cases, parents of students. My Trinity course work gave me a basic understanding of urban public schools before going into the field in New York City.

What advice would you give to Trinity students to prepare for a position in your field? Be part of community-based organizations and public schools in the area as much as you possibly can. Log as many hours talking to real people and teaching or tutoring students. This will help you be confident when breaking into the education world. Do your research. Ask teachers in the community and advisers at Trinity as many questions as you can to help steer you in the right direction. After that, look at programs you are interested in. I would recommend a dual-certification and postgraduate degree program if you plan on teaching. The certification process is complicated and is made much easier when there are experienced people supporting you.   

What is the biggest misconception about your field or graduate school? The biggest misconception about being a special educator is that all your time is spent in the classroom. There are individual learning plans to write and always tons of paperwork to fill out. These tasks are very time-consuming. The biggest misconception about graduate school is that it is a continuation of college. As for graduate school, one should be prepared to work full time in the classroom while also taking classes full time. My yearlong accelerated program was exhausting, and I rarely spent any time at home or with friends and family. That being said, graduate school is much more focused than college, and you are surrounded by talented individuals who are interested in the same topics that you are interested in.