Hometown: Buchanan, New York
Major: Secondary Education, Biology
WCSU Degree: Master of Arts in Teaching for Secondary Education - Biology
Activities: Graduate assistant to the coordinator of the MAT program; taught English in Florence, Italy
Honors and Awards: 3.87 GPA
The beaches of South Carolina are a long way from Danbury, but that's where graduate student Emily Neff obtained a Bachelor of Science in Marine Science, with minors in coastal geology and biology, from Coastal Carolina University in Conway, South Carolina.
The reason she ended up at Western pursuing a Master of Arts in Teaching is simple. "My mom is a first grade teacher, so I practically grew up in her classroom," Neff says. "I have always loved academic settings, so when I was in college I realized that I loved helping other students learn, and I decided teaching was what suited me best. Many people say it runs in the family, and it probably does, so I have my mom to thank for helping me make the decision to be an educator.
Neff says she applied to Western "because it is where my mom got her master's, and she raved about the school and the programs, so it seemed like the best fit."
During the 14-month MAT program at WCSU, Neff worked for a while as a graduate assistant in the MAT Office. Then she took a break from the classroom and moved to Florence, Italy, where she taught English. "It was an absolutely amazing experience that helped me to grow as a teacher," she says.
Having grown up with a mother who is a teacher, Neff knows how to recognize educators who put their heart into their work. "Almost all of the teachers I have had at WestConn have had a huge impact on me and have been mentors for me," she says. "Former WCSU Professor of Education and Educational Psychology Dr. Bonnie Rabe was definitely my lead mentor through the beginning of the program, and being her graduate assistant gave us more time to get to know each other."
Asked what she will remember most about her Western experience, Neff says, "I will never forget when Dr. Frank LaBanca took our science research class out to a marsh where we collected samples and had such a fun time. I have so many pictures from that day, both for the data we had to collect, and from having fun playing in the sand and the water. We were all over the age of 22, but still acted like little kids because it was fun to be outside, and see how we should handle taking our own students on field trips."
After graduation, Neff plans to obtain her certification to teach in New York state, and then apply for jobs in both New York and Connecticut as a biology teacher. "And hopefully one day even an earth science teacher and an oceanography teacher," she says. "If I don't find a job quickly after graduation, I will most likely go back to Italy to teach English for a while again, and maybe even teach biology overseas! Eventually, I would like to work toward a doctorate, though that will be in the distant future."
Neff’s advice to new students entering WCSU is: “Appreciate and enjoy your time as an undergrad. A teacher once told me, 'You should always work hard so you can play hard' and it was the truest advice I was given, so I would like to pass that advice on.”