by Claire Miller
Sabrina Rollins encountered a wide range of personalities when she served on a U.S. Navy aircraft carrier, a vessel that housed 5,000 servicemen and women and journeyed to several international locales.
“Traveling the world, you get to meet all kinds of people,” said Rollins, who spent part of her six-year stint training ship personnel on safety and operating procedures. “It teaches you to bring sensitivity to the table.”
In addition to training personnel in the Navy, Rollins spent three years as a preschool teacher – two experiences that helped her decide that a career in teaching was the path for her.
She completed her associate’s degree at Georgia Perimeter College before transferring to Georgia State University’s College of Education to enroll in a dual certification program in early childhood education and special education.
The dual certification program was appealing to Rollins in part because her daughter was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), a neurobehavioral disorder in which children have difficulty paying attention and controlling impulsive behaviors.
“Between the screenings and meetings and eligibility reports, I just felt lost,” she explained. “So I thought, let me get learn more about special education so I can feel more knowledgeable as a parent of a child with a disability.”
She’s been able to explore special education research in her classes and through the Pathway Summer Scholar Program, a scholarship available through the COE’s Network for Enhancing Teacher Quality (NET-Q) project that allows participants to design and conduct educational research with a faculty member.
DaShaundra Patterson, clinical assistant professor in the Department of Educational Psychology and Special Education and NET-Q project coordinator, spoke to one of Rollins’ classes about the Pathways program. Little did Rollins know that she would not only be chosen as a scholar, but would get to work with Patterson directly on a project examining the correlations between behavior and discipline at home and in the classroom.
“The research project we worked on this summer focused the impact of discipline practices used at home and how it translated into school behavior,” she explained. “We also focused on the impact of different parenting styles on a child’s behavior.”
Rollins became close with Patterson, the other students in her cohort and her professors as she completed her coursework and student teaching, and found a similar camaraderie among the teachers she worked with in her year-long teacher residency at Tucker Middle School in Tucker, Ga.
“I learned so many things from them and I think it was good that we had that partnership,” she said. “I was in the classroom for my residency with someone who had been teaching eight years already, so she had a vast amount of teaching experience.”
The residency, one component of the COE’s NET-Q project, gave her what felt like another year of student teaching to prepare her for a full-time position at Tucker Middle this fall, working alongside an 8th grade teacher in a general education classroom to support students with disabilities.
In addition to completing her residency this year, Rollins also traveled to Washington, D.C., with other representatives from the COE to participate in The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) annual Day on the Hill. This two-day event brings together educators and members of Congress to discuss current educational issues.
COE representatives met with Rep. John Lewis, Rep. David Scott, Sen. Saxby Chambliss and Sen. Johnny Isakson about education-related legislation and the future of the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant Program, which provides up to $4,000 a year to students “who are completing or plan to complete course work needed to begin a career in teaching,” according to the grant program’s website.
Rollins was a recipient of a TEACH grant and, along with Tucker Middle School Principal Kathy Cunningham, explained to members of Congress how teachers who receive such funding can improve student achievement in local schools.
“We were trying to show that this program is working and that they need to continue funding this program because we are getting great teachers out of it who are making a difference in their schools,” she said. “Our representatives were very receptive.”
As Rollins begins the 2012-2013 school year, she believes her time in the COE has given her the foundation she needs to start her career on the right foot.
“You won’t have any qualms about your ability to teach when you graduate from here,” she said. “If you want to be a great teacher, come to Georgia State.”