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Teaching and Learning—At the Same Time

Jess Singer - Teaching and Learning story

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.

Limitless Creativity

“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 teaching and learning STEM

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.

Aerial view of GCU.

About Georgian Court University

Founded in 1908 and sponsored by the Sisters of Mercy, Georgian Court University is Central and South Jersey’s only Catholic university. GCU is a comprehensive, coeducational university with a strong liberal arts core and a historic special concern for women. As a forward-thinking university that supports diversity and academic excellence, GCU is known for expanding possibility for more than 2,100 students of all faiths and backgrounds in 35+ undergraduate majors and 10+ graduate programs. The GCU Lions compete in 15 NCAA Division II sports in the Central Atlantic Collegiate Conference (CACC). In 2020, GCU was named a Best Value College by and a Best Bang for the Buck (Northeast) by Washington Monthly. High student retention and graduation rates also make GCU a Top Performer on Social Mobility on U.S. News & World Reports rankings. The main campus is located in Lakewood, New Jersey, on the picturesque former George Jay Gould estate, a National Historic Landmark. Georgian Court, which is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, also serves students at other locations, such as GCU at BrookdaleGCU at Rowan College of South Jersey–Cumberland Campus, and through multiple online certificate and degree programs.

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