INTERVIEWER: So, to start off, what made you want to join NJSEA at the state level?
ALLISON PLISHKA: Last year, I became more involved in NJSEA in Montclair State University’s (MSU) local chapter as Outreach Chair. This school year I am now serving as the Vice President of MSU’s chapter because one of my main goals is to continue to grow our local chapter. This goal helped me realize how much more I can do for NJSEA and its preservice members, not only at MSU, but throughout the state and the nation. This realization is also what ultimately inspired me to become a state ambassador.
INTERVIEWER: It’s great to see members with a passion to expand the preservice branch and give other future educators the benefits and opportunities of NJSEA because it honestly just makes our entire profession stronger. So, other than increasing our member base, what do you hope to add to the NJSEA community?
PLISHKA: I hope to aid in forming a stable and supportive community to help all members feel like they are connected with each other and leaders at the state level of NJSEA. To help achieve this goal, I plan to host events at MSU that members throughout the state have to option to attend. Giving members from other colleges and universities the option to attend a workshop demonstrates that we are ready and willing to work together and support one another. Being a state ambassador gives me a direct connection to ambassadors from other schools across New Jersey, which makes it easier to invite members from other chapters to our events at MSU. I think having a person at the local level on the board as a state ambassador gives local chapters more outreach capabilities.
INTERVIEWER: So being interested in creating community between state and local levels and supporting one another is something I think all members should strive to do, and I’m happy to see you really try to take charge in those aspects. What are some specific ways you advocate and enhance NJSEA in your local chapter?
PLISHKA: As the Vice President at my local chapter, I promote NJSEA by representing us at events hosted by MSU, like the orientation for new students in MSU’s teaching program and the Student Organizations Fair. We also get involved in other organizations’ events, including a panel hosted by MSU’s chapter of the Future Educators Association. Participating in these events helps us achieve our goal of spreading NJSEA’s mission and attracting new members. Additionally, our chapter tries to enhance members’ experiences by creating campus events that give them professional development opportunities. To accomplish this I reach out and work with university staff members and special guest speakers who can host lectures or facilitate workshops.
INTERVIEWER: That is awesome to see you taking initiative at your local chapter to spearhead professional development and work with other organizations. I want to switch gears a bit and bring the focus more onto you as a future educator. What is one of the most important things you have learned from a field placement?
PLISHKA: I have been in a kindergarten room twice a week since September as an introduction to student teaching in the spring semester. I regularly contribute to and participate in the classroom activities and lessons. I feel that from being in this kindergarten class, I have already learned more than I ever could from just sitting through education courses. Seeing what I’ve learned in education courses being applied in real world classrooms has been a valuable experience as a preservice educator. Most importantly to me, I have seen first-hand from my cooperating teacher how to accommodate all children within lesson plans, and I’ve seen how to give certain students more attention when needed. This can be challenging to accomplish, but when it works successfully it can make all the difference. Through this experience I have realized and felt how rewarding teaching is for educators through the little moments and interactions that happen in the classroom.
INTERVIEWER: I completely agree. There is nothing quite like finally getting into the classroom and challenging yourself and your students and taking part in a growing process together. Overall, what has been a highlight of your educational preservice career thus far, and why?
PLISHKA: I’d have to say the highlight of my educational preservice career so far has been teaching at my current fieldwork placement. It has been exciting to get in front of the classroom and learn and improve myself as an educator. I am grateful for my placement and all of the experiences I have had and will have with my kindergarteners.