Hometown: Monroe, Conn.
MAJOR: Elementary Education (K-6) with a concentration in English
WCSU Degree: Bachelor of Science, Elementary Education - English
Internships: Two student-teaching internships: one at a Danbury elementary school and the other at the elementary school in her hometown of Monroe
ACTIVITIES: Works full-time for the Danbury Board of Education as a 4th grade, long-term substitute teacher (January-June 2014), WCSU Education Club for events including "Have Fun, Stay Fit!" and "Read Across America," volunteer work at the alternative high school, Science and Technology workshops in Newtown, a class-organized trip to Columbia's Teacher College Reading and Writing Project in Manhattan, delivered a presentation on Multi-Level Literacy in Urban Schools at the 20th Annual Mount Saint Mary Literacy conference in Newburgh, N.Y.
Honors and Awards: Henry Barnard Distinguished Student Award 2014; Marie C. Waser Memorial Education Award Recipient, spring 2014; Stephen K. Lovett Education Award Recipient, spring 2013; John Tufts Prize Recipient, spring 2012; Education Honor Society Recognition Award recipient, spring 2013; Certificate of Achievement in Western Connecticut State University Education Club, spring 2013; Sigma Tau Delta - National English Honor Society Member, all semesters; Dean's List High Honors Achievement every semester; graduating Summa Cum Laude; 3.95 GPA
Nicole Chalk says that ever since she was a child, she has known that being an educator was her personal calling. "When graduating from high school, I realized that my challenge was not going to be deciding which career path to take, as often is the question for many young adults, but rather where to make my professional dreams come true," she says. "After investigating my options and meeting with the career-counseling center at WCSU, I quickly understood the vast potential offered through Western's education program. As a student at WCSU, I made it my personal goal to challenge myself and embrace every opportunity presented to me by the Education Department."
Chalk says that upon graduating from high school, there were many universities within her realm of possibilities. "My education has always been immensely important to me, and I wanted to make the best decision to help me achieve my personal ambitions," she says. "I knew I wanted to remain close to home, but I also knew I wanted to have the opportunity to grow as a person, far beyond what was familiar to me. WCSU gave me this opportunity. The first time I walked around the campus, I immediately knew Western was the right choice for me. I remember picking up the school pamphlet, which read in bold letters, 'Stay near, go far!' In my experiences at WCSU, I have never once questioned my decision. WCSU exceeded my expectations by providing me with countless opportunities to challenge myself, not only as a student, but also as an individual, ultimately raising my personal bar for success."
Ask Chalk about her opinion of the faculty at Western, and she says, "I genuinely feel that each and every professor that I have had throughout my educational career at WCSU has contributed to the person that I am today. When I reflect back upon the years I spent at Western as a student, I can recall a special memory from all of the professors that I have been lucky enough to have. Professor Margaret (Judy) Sullivan of the English Department will forever be a monumental inspiration in my life. Professor Sullivan's passion for teaching and dedication to her students was evident in every course I have ever taken with her. She not only challenged me throughout my educational experience, but also guided and encouraged me every step of my journey. I hope to spark the same love for learning in the minds and hearts of my students as Professor Sullivan has fostered in me. The professors that I had during my professional studies in the elementary education program — Dr. Robin James, Dr. Darla Shaw, Dr. Harry Rosvally and Dr. Marsha Daria, Professor Lyall, Dr. Virginia King — each served as a mentor to me while I developed my educational philosophy as an aspiring teacher. The professors go beyond education in the classroom to help every one of their students to find themselves as individuals. That is certainly not something you will find everywhere."
Asked what she will remember most about her Western experience, Chalk says, "The Read Across America event in which I participated during the professional semester of my undergraduate studies. Professor of Education and Educational Psychology Dr. Darla Shaw, as well as several other educators from the Danbury community, planned the event. To honor National Read Across America Day, WCSU education students teamed up with Danbury High School students from the local alternative school to organize a flash mob performance for students at Ellsworth Avenue Elementary School in Danbury. The excitement on each of the elementary students' faces as we emerged from the stage in costume will always remain a defining moment in my experiences at Western."
Chalk says that as an Elementary Education student at Western, she has been given many opportunities to explore different learning styles while also broadening her knowledge of working with young learners within culturally diverse classrooms. "The uniqueness and complexity of each individual student has opened my mind to the vastness of the world and has raised my awareness of the tremendous value that stems from fostering these differences within the classroom through multicultural education. My interactions with students and educators within our local school districts have inspired me, as a teacher, to find effective and engaging classroom methods to encourage children to embrace diversity while also sparking a passion within students for understanding and experiencing different ways of life. The concepts of diversity and multicultural education in the classroom are important aspects for all educators to understand, for they not only contribute to the teacher's ability to differentiate instruction to meet the needs of the students, but also provide the classroom with a rich assortment of experience, knowledge and values that each child contributes to the learning community."
Chalk says, "Since receiving my B.S. degree from Western, I have been working in the Danbury School District full time as an elementary school teacher and plan to continue full-time work. As a teacher, I am most definitely a life-long learner, just as we encourage our students to be, and I intend to continue my education by applying for a master of arts program for literacy specialists."
Chalk's advice to new students entering WCSU is: "One of my most cherished pieces of advice came from none other than Steve Jobs: 'Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven't found it yet, keep looking. Don't settle. As with all matters of the heart, you'll know when you find it.' Through the experiences I have had at WCSU, I am certain that I have found my 'great work' with teaching. My advice to incoming WCSU students is to never settle and to follow your passion until you find your great work."