Tuesday, November 13, 2012
When did your career plans come into focus? Was it during college, when your – chosen major just felt right? Or, maybe your first job offered you the chance to do something you never previously considered?
Sarah Sell ’13 knew she wanted to be a teacher before she was finished with fifth grade, and has never questioned it for a moment since.
“I loved my fifth-grade teacher – she was wonderful,” Sell said of what she called a pivotal year in her own development. “For me, there was never a doubt about what I wanted to do after that.”
A decade later, the Elementary Education with Integrated Math and Science major is rapidly approaching her goal, and even when she steps to the front of a classroom next fall for the first time as a professional, Sell won’t lack experience in the field. In fact, one of the reasons the Hillsborough, N.J., native chose Rider was the freedom to begin student-teaching as a sophomore.
“I wanted the maximum field experience, and not to wait until I was a senior to be in front of a classroom,” explained Sell, who was sold on Rider after an Admitted Students Day that exceeded her wildest expectations.
“I fell in love with the School of Education and its programming,” recalled Sell, who conceded she had been eyeing another university. “The people were so friendly and welcoming, but more importantly, they had the exact program I wanted – something I didn’t think I was going to be able to find – to make it happen and achieve my goals.”
Sell, who is also a Mathematics minor, knew that she wanted to obtain her middle school math certification, but not simply by taking one course that would prepare her to pass the Praxis exam. She wanted to earn a true understanding.
“The whole culture, the psychology of the School of Education, encourages you to explore and truly learn,” she explained. “I knew this was meant to be.”
Sell is a legacy, of sorts, at Rider. Her father, Noel Sell ’78, and mother, Valerie Schultz Sell ’78, are graduates of Westminster Choir College of Rider University. And while the younger Sell does not possess her parents’ knack for music, she did inherit their passion for teaching, as both have enjoyed long careers in music education.
Sell’s own career in the classroom is focused on urban sites, such as Trenton, where she currently student-teaches fifth grade – the very year she considered so crucial in her own childhood – at Mott Elementary School. As with teaching in general, it is a setting Sell knew she preferred from the outset.
“It’s an environment where it’s uncommon for many of the students’ parents or siblings or cousins to have gone to college,” she said of the heightened challenge. “With my kids, they need someone in their lives to push them. They’re smart and bright kids, but need someone to keep them focused.”
Focus hasn’t been an issue for Sell, who balances her student-teaching with her own classwork, while serving as president of the Student New Jersey Education Association, and as co-president of Rider’s chapter of Kappa Delta Pi, the international honor society in education. She cites Dr. Sharon Sherman, the dean of the School of Education, as a role model for her own ambitions.
“We both came to Rider at the same time, and I knew her right from the outset,” Sell said of Sherman, who has served in her role since the summer of 2009. “The first week of school, I told her, ‘We’re in this together.’ She’s been my mentor, and I’ve had the best experiences here.”