Leah Jasek '20
Remote Kindergarten Teacher Grand Island Central School District
Education is a family affair for Leah Jasek ’20. From a young age she was active in her mother’s classroom and aspired to follow in her footsteps. “My mom makes every student feel like they are capable and belong which is exactly what I want to do with every student I meet and teach,” she shared.
Jasek has held several roles in her district, but is currently teaching kindergarten students in a 100% virtual learning environment. She runs her classroom and meets with students throughout the day. When not working with students, Jasek is planning future lessons and communicating with parents. “My favorite part of my day is interacting with my students,” she emphasizes, while affirming the importance of the administrative tasks of teaching. Jasek looks forward to one day teaching students in person, but for now she’s happy in the virtual classroom. “I love helping students shine and have fun while learning online.”
She credits the faculty in the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education for teaching her how to make each student feel valued and appreciated, and remains in touch with her professors, contacting them for advice, tips, and tricks. “My Fisher education prepared me for my career, when it comes to the material and knowledge that I needed to succeed in my classroom. In addition, Fisher provided me with experiences that have allowed me to grow as a teacher and a person. I would not be the teacher or the person I am today without Fisher,” Jasek shared.
Jasek encourages students to use their experiences at Fisher to excel in their career after college, recommending them to “use the knowledge and values you have learned from Fisher to continue striving toward your goals. Life outside of Fisher is definitely different, but the values and person you are is not,” she advises.
Devin Guinnip ’17
Devin Guinnip ’17 spent her time at Fisher immersed in teacher education, building her leadership skills through membership in the Council for Exceptional Children and the Teacher Education Society of America.
While completing a summer internship in Haiti, the inclusive childhood education and American studies graduate developed a passion for urban education, and hopes to teach in New York City’s public school system. Devin credits the campus’ personable nature with her success in the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education.
“Being a part of the education program at Fisher has allowed me to make worthwhile connections and find my true passion,” she said. “The small class sizes and knowing my professors on a first name basis are amazing features that have resulted in a quality education. I know multiple people are personally invested in my success.”
Camille Pensabene ’17
Camille Pensabene ’17 would tell incoming students to take advantage of the opportunities presented in college, even if they are a little outside your comfort zone. As an inclusive childhood education and statistics graduate, she lived that advice all four years of college.
A native of West Genesee, New York, Camille was able to spend time in Rochester area schools, working with pre-school to middle school-aged students.
“I loved the opportunity to go into classrooms and work with kids,” said Camille, who was a member of the College’s Honors Program. “I also liked that I could be creative and develop my own lessons plans.”
As a budding statistician, she engaged in several programs, honing her data analysis and project management skills. In summer 2016, she participated in the Research Experience for Undergraduates and Teachers (REUT) program in Chico California. Working with four other undergraduates, a professor, and a high school teacher, she helped her team determine optimal fourth down strategy in the game of football.
“We utilized play-by-play NFL data to simulate football games while adjusting different aspects of the game of football,” she explained.
After returning from that experience, Camille engaged in an internship at Loretto, a health care organization in Syracuse, working directly with their project manager to collect and analyze data related to ongoing projects.
Antonia Piccirillo ’18
The Fisher family. That’s Antonia Piccirillo’s ’18 favorite thing about St. John Fisher College.
“The Fisher family is truly special and spectacular. Everyone at the College is so nice and incredibly supportive of one another,” she said.
Antonia said it’s the supportive environment that led her to go outside of her comfort zone and join Fisher’s jazz band, Fisher Swingbirds, and theater group, Fisher Players. In addition to the performance groups, she has served as a senator for the Student Government Association and is a resident assistant in Murphy Hall.
Fisher’s welcoming atmosphere also helped the inclusive adolescence education and English major find a home in the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education.
“What I like most about being an education major is being a part of the close-knit community in the School of Education,” Antonia explained, noting that the History and Philosophy of Education course, taught by Dr. Jeff Liles, helped her articulate her vision for the type of teacher she one day wants to be. “I have always wanted to be a teacher and the professors in the School are driven, helpful, and incredible role models.”
Dominique Recuparo ’17
Middle School Academic Intervention Services Teacher, Syracuse City School District
An inclusive adolescence education major who also studied English at Fisher, Dominique has always wanted to be an educator, and hopes to teach English one day.
“I have wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember. In 4th grade, I asked for an overhead projector for Christmas so that I could play school - and I got it!” she said.
Today, Dominique has achieved that childhood goal. As an academic intervention service teacher, she uses the active reading and critical thinking strategies she learned in her English courses to help Syracuse middle school students improve their reading and writing skills. In her current classroom, she also draws on her experiences as a Service Scholar working in a 9th grade English classroom at East Rochester High School.
“As an English and education major, I was able to help with anything from grading assignments, to planning lessons, to teaching small groups,” she said. “Having this opportunity provided me with the assurance that I was definitely in the right field of study. It also provided me with experience and an excitement for my career.”
Cassie Ripley '19
A third-year teacher at Rush-Henrietta High School, Cassie Ripley completed her undergraduate degree at Fisher in inclusive childhood education before embarking on a master's degree in literacy education. She credits Fisher for providing opportunities to develop as a student, a teacher, and a person.
For Cassie, the most valuable element of her graduate program has been the sheer volume of knowledge imparted by the faculty at Fisher, which she says helped her become a well-rounded educator with a solid foundation in culturally responsive pedagogy. She describes the faculty as “incredible” and shares that her coursework at Fisher continues to impact her curriculum design and lesson planning in the classroom. Unsurprisingly, Cassie’s favorite place on campus is Lavery Library, which she frequented for both individual and group work, as well as for the resources available to education majors. Her advice to new or current Fisher students is to be open-minded, take risks, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes.
Barry Rogenmoser ’18
Prioritize. Prioritize. Prioritize. That’s the advice student-athlete Barry Rogenmoser ’18 has for incoming students. A member of the men’s soccer team, he juggles practice and games with a double major in English and inclusive adolescence education.
“Prioritization is imperative for success in the academic setting, but it is also a huge component of maximizing the college experience,” he said. “Fisher has so much to offer, so deciding what parts of your life matter most and pursuing those parts wholeheartedly is the best way to have a fulfilling and unforgettable experience.”
For Barry, that passion includes English literature, storytelling, and writing, and he credits professors like Dr. Stephen Brauer, who teaches Readings in American Literature, with stoking that interest.
“The texts that were read for the course combined with Dr. Brauer’s insightful lectures resulted in an enlightening and stimulating journey through American literature,” he said. “During this class, I found myself approaching novels, short stories, and poetry from alternative lenses that helped me truly discover the importance and power behind storytelling.”
All lessons Barry is sure to take with him as he pursues a career post-graduation.
“I aspire to be a high school English teacher and work with students in the AP English Literature class, helping them find a passion and appreciation for storytelling and writing,” he said.
Tyana Velazquez-Smith '15
CSTEP Program Director, St. John Fisher College
Tyana Velazquez-Smith ’15 is the Collegiate Science and Technology Entry Program (CSTEP) program director at Fisher. In this role, she supports undergraduate students at Fisher who are pursuing degrees in STEM-related fields. In addition, she is working towards her Ph.D. in education, a process that entails completing course work, conducting research, and serving as a teaching assistant for two doctoral-level courses.
She describes a typical day as “jam-packed with reading, writing papers, studying for exams, supporting CSTEP students, grading assignments, meetings, classes, and LOTS of emails.” Velazquez-Smith continues, “But these are all things that I love and genuinely enjoy doing. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
A former kindergarten teacher, she emphasizes the skills she learned at Fisher prepared her to be an innovative, thoughtful, and engaging educator. “I learned skills that elevated my craft as a teacher, but also as a professional. The fabulous professors at the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education guided me to graduation, but their teachings have also guided me throughout life.”
She credits her academic advisors for their continued support and motivation during her time at Fisher. “Their guidance while I was a student and post-graduation is why this College is referred to as a Fisher family. As my advisors, they reminded me of my intellect and strength and inspired me to be the best educator that I could be.” She continues, “It is now my honor to work alongside these powerhouses five years later as colleagues.”;
Ultimately, Velazquez-Smith looks forward to working as a professor at the college level. She also plans to continue her research and eventually publish a book on literacy and identity construction among young Black women.
She advises students to stay true to themselves and stay on a path that has meaning for them, not the path of your friends or what you think will make your family proud, sharing, “Only do the things that speak to your heart.”
Alexa Zappia ’18
From in-class participation to being a leader in several student organizations, you could say that Alexa Zappia ’18 has found the perfect recipe for making her college career count.
As a peer colleague in the First-Year Writing Program, the Williamsville, New York native found a way to both grow as a writer and enhance her knowledge of curriculum development and delivery. Alexa applied the lessons learned as an education major to assist first-year students in their writing class, conducting and analyzing research related to the development of drafting tools in the classroom.
As an aspiring elementary school teacher, Alexa said experiences like that, coupled with the courses she’s taken through the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education, are preparing her well for life in the classroom.
“Every professor I have had centered their course on the hands-on experience approach,” she said. “Each professor possesses an immense amount of knowledge within the education field. Each course is differentiated to fit the needs of the students which shows us how we should run our classrooms.”
As a Service Scholar and member of the Teacher Education Student Association and Residence Hall Association, she’s managed to balance involvement inside and outside of the classroom. And, in addition to her active participation in student groups, Alexa launched Rocks of Unity, an initiative that celebrates diversity and unity on campus.
“It’s the students, faculty, and staff that make Fisher special,” she said. “The community is really a family and that’s what makes this campus unique.”
Molly Zies ’19
Molly Zies ’19 is determined to “lean in.” The Waterford, Michigan native chose to major in inclusive adolescence education and American studies with the goal of becoming a high school teacher and making a difference in the profession.
“There’s a new generation of teachers coming into the world and we have the power to better it,” she said. “Even if we can only better education for one child, it makes it all worth it.”
As a student in the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education, Molly said her favorite course was Dr. Jeff Liles’ History and Philosophy Foundations of Education. The course, she said, taught her about evolution of education and made her passion for education grow.
“We always had to critically think and collaborate with one another to find the reasoning as to why things are the way they are,” she said. “I think Dr. Liles’ favorite word is ‘why’.”
When she’s not learning how to make an impact in the field of education, Molly is making one at Fisher.
“I’ve got a strong case of Fisher fever,” she joked. That spirit has translated into positions with the Office of Admissions CORE and Orientation teams and membership in the Residence Hall Association and Fisher Players.
Molly’s advice for students?
“Get involved! Being from out of state, I did not know anyone moving into Fisher and was a little nervous. Getting involved was the best decision I ever made,” she explained. “I met so many great people and made friends who I know will be right by my side for many years to come.”