It’s just after 8:00 a.m. in Bobbi Allaire’s classroom as nearly 20 teenagers take their seats. The veteran teacher, who has more than 30 years of experience, talks with a few who are working on Lego portraits.
Other students gaze curiously at the 80-inch whiteboard, where Michelangelo’s Pieta is projected. At the front of the room, a teacher intern calls the students to order. That’s when Jess Singer ’18 peppers them with questions about scale, contour, composition, and Michelangelo’s use of artistic devices.
Welcome to first period Art Fundamentals, where the experienced educator and the teacher intern, both products of the GCU School of Education, embody the modern-day art and science of helping students learn.
“You have to keep things relevant for kids,” says Ms. Allaire, who earned her undergraduate degree in 1984 and her master’s degree in 2007, both at Georgian Court. “You can teach traditional approaches, but you have to find subject matter and methods of reaching your goals that are exciting for kids.”
“There are those who say I’m all about turning art on its head, but I’m purposeful about that,” she explains when asked about her students’ Lego character portraits.
“Back when I taught elementary school, I gave them Cabbage Patch Kids to design as I was teaching them proportion and character. I did the same thing with Care Bears, Monster energy drink cans, and Snapple. Teaching is about making connections and teaching kids how to make connections.”
Different Path, Same Destination
Nick Lorusso ’15 thought he wanted to be a surgeon, but after earning a B.S. in Biology from the University of Tampa, he changed his mind.
“I could do lab work, but for me that wasn’t going to be fulfilling,” he explains. “Someone suggested that I consider teaching and the truth is, it was always something that I loved.”
Nick grew up around teachers, including his mother, Pat Lorusso. The veteran educator served in classroom and administrative roles before joining GCU as director of field experiences and clinical partnerships. She encouraged him to consider GCU’s graduate program for teacher certification.
Nick enrolled, but it wasn’t easy—in fact he describes it as “one tough year of taking six-hour classes and working at the same time. It was a lot of work, but getting through it was worth it.”
Today, Nick is a standout STEM teacher at Keansburg High School. His classes include biology and courses that integrate engineering, science, math, Web site development, and coding.
“This brings me back to my roots,” he adds. “I love to understand how and why things work. Science is always changing, and there’s always something new to teach, to learn, to know.”
Teaching and Learning—at the Same Time
Recent GCU graduate Jess Singer, who was once a student of Bobbi Allaire, knows what she signed up for. Becoming an educator isn’t easy, and time management can be a challenge for anyone, let alone a part-time student who is student-teaching and coaching two cheerleading teams full time and working a part-time weekend job. But Jess’s love for the field is a testament to power of great teaching.
“I firmly believe that when you sign up to be a teacher, you sign up to be a student for life,” Jess says. “My students teach me something every day—whether that be something new that I didn’t know, or something about myself and my teaching.”
This story is an excerpt from the Spring 2018 edition of GCU Magazine.