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KCC Faculty on Teaching

KCC Faculty on Teaching

Denise Farrelly

Q&A with Denise Farrelly |Education Studies

How did you get into teaching?
Teaching has always been a calling for me. From a young age, I’ve loved helping others understand a concept or solve a problem. As an elementary school student at P.S. 52 in Sheepshead Bay, I was fascinated by the tools of teaching: the chalk, the maps, the pointers. I used to linger in my classroom before lunch and ask my teacher to let me help her with paperwork and organization. I guess I was always practicing and imagining what I would ultimately choose as a career.  

What career did you imagine for yourself when you were in college?
I went straight into college as an early childhood and elementary education major at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development. I dreamed of having my own classroom and was focused on working with early childhood students. However, in my last undergraduate semester, I worked in a fourth-grade classroom at P.S. 321 in Park Slope as a student teacher and fell in love with children in that developmental stage. I knew that I’d ultimately teach fourth and fifth grade, and I was hired as a fifth-grade teacher at P.S. 52 that following fall and taught in the same classroom I had when I attended the school as a child — and some of my teachers were still teaching there! They remembered me and mentored me throughout the decade that I taught there. I am forever grateful for their support and kindness as I developed into the educator I am today.   

What do you love about teaching?
The opportunity to build relationships with my students each semester is what binds me to the teaching career. I started my education studies thinking about chalk and pointers (and maybe a bit of power), but was exposed to an image of education so far beyond that — one that places the students at the center of the learning experience and values diversity, equity and inclusion as catalysts for learning. Kingsborough’s vision and mission are closely aligned with my own philosophy of education, so my higher education teaching career has been quite a fulfilling one. 

What’s your favorite teaching experience?
My fieldwork students once decided that, in lieu of sharing their growth reflection presentations with one another at the end of the semester, they wanted to host a luncheon for their cooperating teachers at our fieldwork school. They each prepared digital presentations, showcasing their triumphs and challenges as preservice teachers, while spotlighting the cooperating teachers’ key role in their growth process over the semester. The students volunteered to bring in food, and they decorated the teachers’ lounge with posters quoting their own “Aha!” moments captured from prior fieldwork reflection papers. Each presentation concluded with sincere, mutual gratitude and hugs! I’ll never forget the way the students initiated and facilitated such a meaningful event, inspired by their desire to communicate all that they had learned to an audience that had a direct impact on their professional development.   

In what ways do you bring your professional experience into the classroom?
Having come from an elementary teaching background, I was initially worried that that experience wouldn’t transfer to adult learners. I’ve come to realize that good teaching is good teaching. We tailor our approaches to meet our students’ developmental stages, individual needs, cultures and backgrounds. With that in mind, my professional training and experience as a teacher and curriculum developer have served my students well in their pursuit of becoming teachers themselves.   

What advice do you have for current students?
Get involved in college life. Join a club. Volunteer. Meet new friends. Ask for help. Give help when possible. Get to know your professors. Ask them for advice. Show them what you’re working on. Take care of yourself. Breathe. You can do this. You’re amazing!