New grad enters first teaching role set to hit the ground running, exemplifies readiness rooted in Hiram’s education program
Nick Fejedelem sweeps about room 210 at Crestwood Middle School, hanging posters, stacking textbooks and arranging a menagerie of SpongeBob Beanie Babies on his desk. There’s an air of enthusiasm in this classroom. Here, first-time teacher Fejedelem will lead sixth graders through a year of science lessons that begins August 16, inside the same classroom Fejedelem attended as an 11-year-old student.
“It’s home,” says Fejedelem, a May 2016 Hiram College graduate who considers himself lucky to launch his teaching career at his home school district.
The newly minted 22-year-old teacher also received a teaching offer from a New Mexico school. His decision to join Crestwood instead will place him on a team with many of his former teachers, now his colleagues.
“It’s a different feeling to work with people who inspired me to teach,” Fejedelem says.
Fejedelem says he wants to pay the inspiration forward. He hopes to lead students down a path upon which they discover themselves through science and open their minds to future career possibilities in science. He plans to weave his love of prose into his lessons by using famous quotes related to science to fuel conversations and curiosity.
He’ll start with his favorite quotation by Maya Angelou: “The sum of us is greater than all our parts.” A poster imprinted with the saying and posted to the classroom’s front wall implies this quote could be a keeper. Fejedelem plans for his students to contribute and discuss other inspirational sayings with a science slant throughout the year.
“Words are powerful,” Fejedelem says. “And education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world. I want to have an impact on students, to influence them to want to make a change in the world.”
Fejelelum, who also coaches wrestling and soccer at the middle school, says his first year will be a learning experience – one he’ll share with his students.
“We’ll learn together. I can only inspire them and help them achieve success,” says Fejedelem, who points out that his years as an education major at Hiram prepared him to enter his teaching career with confidence. Although he describes Hiram’s education program as intensive and rigorous, Fejedelem says attending college classes felt more like a treat than a chore.
“I didn’t even feel like I was going to class. We learned new ways of teaching, taking into consideration any culture and any perspective. We [teachers] have to find a way to meet students where they are,” he explains.
Like Fejedelem, Crestwood Middle School mathematics teacher, Jen Yardas, also began her teaching career just two months after graduating from Hiram in May 2015. She shares Fejedelem’s sentiment about Hiram’s education program.
“Hiram does a great job preparing students in both the college classroom and out in the field. Candidates gain an incredible amount of knowledge about their future profession. The professors do a great job modeling good teaching practices and greatly preparing students for what is ahead,” Yardas says.
Yardas describes teaching as vastly different than other professions. She says that good teachers who realize their capacity to change and help children and improve their lives put their whole hearts into their jobs.
A native resident of Moon Township, Pa., Yardas adds that the rapport Hiram College’s Education Department shares with surrounding school districts allows teaching candidates to spend abundant time in the classroom. Yardas, for example, spent significant time over five semesters of her college education inside classrooms.
“The great amount of experience that the education department provided was the reason that I felt prepared to have my own successful classroom. Hiram College’s Education Department has high expectations and the professors guide and support you each step of the way,” she says.
It’s no surprise that Hiram College’s education department reported a 94 percent job placement rate among its 2014-2015 graduating cohorts. Statistics for 2015-2016 are not yet in.
“Our students are strong, and our placement reflects that,” says Roxanne Sorrick, Ed.D., chair of Hiram’s Education Department, professor and head of teacher education.
Sorrick describes a long-awaited and optimistic forecast for new and future teachers.
“The job market is opening up,” says Sorrick, explaining that retiring Baby Boomers are leaving behind coveted teaching positions. “In some states, particularly in the South, there is a teacher shortage.”