Karoline Colucci, a senior from Stafford, Va., comes from a family of educators. She originally resisted going into education, but was driven by various opportunities within her community and a desire to make a positive impact on future generations. She emphasizes the dedication of teachers and the importance of providing all students with a quality education. She believes in the potential of West Virginia students and explains the importance of the close-knit community at WVU and the elementary education program.
Major: Elementary Education
Hometown: Stafford, Va.
Were there any specific events or experiences that inspired you to pursue elementary education?
I come from a long line of educators. My parents are both involved in the education world to varying degrees, my grandmother was a teacher, and my great-grandfather was an administrator. The profession has surrounded me my entire life. When I think back to all of the educators I have had prior to coming to WVU, they all have a special place in my heart. Particularly, my 4th grade teacher, Miss Wescoat. I think about all the amazing things we did in her classroom to this day. She really inspired me and made me see just how fun and engaging teaching can be.
When and why did you know you wanted to pursue a career in elementary education?
I think choosing a degree or life path is like a 'lightbulb' moment for a lot of people. But for me, it was a gradual realization. I had a lot of opportunities growing up to be involved within my community and experience education from different perspectives. I used to tell myself, "I will not go into education -- I want to do my own thing!" But as I kept getting involved in teaching summer school or getting involved as a paraprofessional, I felt drawn towards education. I believe that many people want to have an impact on the world within their lifetime. For me, teaching future generations of problem-solvers is my way of making a lasting impression on the world. Thus, going into education is my way of giving back to my community, and making a positive impact on those who touch my life.
Why did you choose West Virginia University?
West Virginia has an incredibly rich history and beautiful scenery. I grew up coming here in the summers to visit my grandparents, so this state holds a lot of wonderful memories for me. Both of my parents and grandparents graduated from WVU, so applying here felt natural and like the right next step. Not only that, but WVU is a leader in a lot of ground-breaking research, which makes it a great institution to learn from and experience amazing opportunities. WVU has always felt like home to me, so coming here just made sense.
What do you think separates WVU’s elementary education programs from others?
WVU's elementary education program is not like most universities. Instead of having you get your degree in a related field and then getting a master's in education, WVU has an entire program dedicated to just elementary education. That means I can have my certification and license to teach in four years instead of five. I am able to get my degree in such a specified area, which is really neat, and I think it further prepares me for when I am out teaching in the field. Not only that, but all of the professors are incredibly passionate about their area of expertise, which makes learning way more engaging and fun.
What are some of your favorite classes here?
Hands-down, my favorite class has been Curriculum & Instruction 462 with Dr. Courtney Shimek. She has a way of really making you passionate about what you are learning. I think this is because she is passionate about what she is teaching. I enjoyed learning about running records, how students understand literacy and how that goes hand-in-hand with a lot of developmental factors. It made me realize just how much I loved reading, and how I want to pass that love down to my students and see their growth as they become readers.
I also have really enjoyed Curriculum & Instruction 433 this semester. Dr. Sarah Selmer is a wonderful mathematics educator and has made me feel fully prepared to teach math in my own classroom one day. We do a lot of practice on how to teach mathematics concepts, and I think it has been incredibly beneficial to me, especially as I have taken more of a hands-on role in my placement classroom.
What extracurricular activities are you involved with and how do you balance extracurricular activities with your academic responsibilities?
I am currently involved in Kappa Delta Pi at WVU, which is the International Honor Society in Education. I first heard about KDP last year, and thought it would be a great way to give back to my community while doing something I was passionate about. I finally signed up for it this year, and so far, we have been doing a lot of great things. On top of student-teaching, taking classes, and trying to have some semblance of a social life, I also have a part-time job that I am at 3-4 days out of the week.
Balancing everything has definitely been a struggle this past semester and it has been easy to fall into burnout. I think spending time with the people that care about me and finding time to do things that fill me with joy has absolutely helped. I follow my Google Calendar like it is my lifeline (mainly because it is). All of my assignments and responsibilities are in there, and without it, I would probably crash and burn.
How do you try and go above and beyond the normal call of duty for your students?
I think that differentiating for students is incredibly important when trying to teach them new concepts and skills. Every student deserves a fair opportunity towards learning and if we do not change the ways in which we teach, students may not fully grasp what we are trying to get them to understand. It is also important to meet students where they are as well as challenge them. I always consider my students individually and how they would do with certain activities. I then decide how I can differentiate my instruction towards their learning goals. This is especially important to me because I want them to feel like we are rooting for them within the classroom setting. Whether this is through enrichment activities or scaffolding techniques, every student deserves a fair shot at their own education.
There can be a lot of negativity around education, how do you respond to that negativity and continue to remain positive?
I think people that pursue a career in education, especially elementary education, are looked at by some as not as smart or not as capable to pursue other areas of interest. However, I have never seen someone work as hard as a teacher does. The thought that goes into each and every lesson, as well as differentiating to meet each of your students' needs, is above and beyond what most people think this career is. This path is not an easy way out. We do this because we believe in a brighter future for the younger generations. We do this because we see how important an education is to a child's life. I think particularly in West Virginia, many people believe that those who live in Appalachia are undeserving of a proper education. I think this is not only wrong, but unethical. The people of West Virginia are incredibly hard-working, determined, and bright. These qualities shine through each and every student I have worked with. They want to learn, they want to grow.
It is sometimes hard to stay positive. Knowledge is power, and trying to give students that power is what keeps me going.
What’s the best part about being a Mountaineer?
The best part of being a Mountaineer is the small community I have built over my four years here. I have a very small, tight-knit group of people that have been my support system through all of this. Being a Mountaineer is leaning on your people through the good and the bad, supporting each other, and taking pride in what you have done together. Whether it be taking scenic drives around Morgantown, screaming the WVU fight song at football games, or partaking in late night study sessions at the library, being a Mountaineer is finding your home within the mountains and making the most out of your everyday life here. I will always bleed blue and gold!