Head of the Class
From left, David Pierfy, Karen Gischlar, Jean Warner and Michael Curran all earned degrees from the School of Education.
There are plenty of reasons why Dr. Michael Curran ’71, M.A.’74, is proud to be a faculty member in the Rider School of Education, where he set the foundation of his career in teaching. Ultimately, however, it extends well beyond simple school spirit.
“There is an intrinsic pride we have in our program and in the University,” Curran explained. “Rider is so well known in the field, and it’s nice to be a part of it. Our students always get the first shot at jobs.”
It is a sentiment echoed by Dr. Jean Warner A.A.’59, B.S.’62, M.A.’64, Dr. David Pierfy ’67 and Dr. Karen Gischlar ’03, who, along with Curran, comprise the four School of Education alumni who are now part of its faculty. And regardless of how each found their way back to Lawrenceville, all agree that it was a road worth taking.
Gischlar, who already had two degrees from The College of New Jersey, simply sought to deepen her classroom skills by enrolling in School Psychology courses at Rider after 16 years teaching in the nearby Hamilton school district.
“I wasn’t necessarily looking to finish the program. I just wanted to be a better kindergarten teacher,” said Gischlar, who completed her Ed.S. requirements at Rider in 2003. “But a few teachers here changed my life.”
After graduating from Rider, Gischlar was invited to teach in the program as an adjunct, and was spurred by her colleagues to pursue a Ph.D. in School Psychology, which she received from Lehigh University in 2009. After a year as an assistant professor the school psychology program director at Montclair State, she joined the faculty at Rider.
Teaching was not in the cards for Warner when she first enrolled in a two-year program at Rider. “I wanted a degree in secretarial science,” she recalled. “It was not my intention to teach.”
However, Warner found the business environment intriguing, and chose to remain on campus for a B.S. in Business Education, which she earned in 1962. She added a master’s degree two years later (as well as a Ph.D. from New York University) and, before long, was invited by Dr. Walter Brower ’48, the former dean of Education, to return as an adjunct instructor.
“It was an easy transition for me, because I was always part of the Rider community in one way or another,” recalled Warner, who taught in the old evening school. “It was all adult students, many a lot older than I was – but I was ahead of them in content knowledge.”
A 1967 baccalaureate graduate, Pierfy returned to Rider five years later not as an instructor, but as an administrator. While teaching at Nottingham High School in Hamilton, he read a story about the School of Education in a Rider alumni publication, and was surprised to read how it had grown in such a short time. He began a correspondence with Brower, which eventually led to an opportunity.
“I was about to take a job at Virginia State when I got a call from Walt,” recalled Pierfy, who was named director of Student Teaching in 1972. Pierfy, who has long since joined the faculty, has gotten a good look at many education programs all over the country, but he will put the one at his alma mater up against any of them.
“I think, ‘Gee, these places are big, but not as good as our program,’” he said. “The things we do in Education here are the best way to do things. I’ve never regretted my time here for a minute.”
Curran taught at two South Jersey high schools throughout most of the 1970s, but rather than head back to campus, he began working for the state Department of Education in a variety of administrative roles that, while important, took him further from where his heart lay – the classroom.
“It wasn’t fun anymore,” said Curran, who returned to Rider in 1991 after earning an Ed.D. at Temple University. “When I came to campus for my interview, it was just like coming home again.”
That familiar collegiality and pride of scholarship is evident throughout the faculty, they say.
“Everyone in my department wants me to succeed,” Gischlar said. “That makes a big difference.”
Warner concurred, adding that the success of their students is the ultimate barometer. “We saw it as our life’s work,” she explained. “And we were all dedicated to it.”
* * *
The School of Education is celebrating its 100th anniversary throughout the 2012-13 academic year.