First up in our SHE Educates series is early childhood education teacher, Cassidy Dias. Cassidy studied Early Childhood Education and Psychology at Worcester State University in Massachusetts. Cassidy believes being a teacher is so rewarding and humbling which makes all the challenges worth it.
Name: Cassidy Dias
Company: Shining Star Early Childhood Center, Milford Public Schools, Massachusetts
Who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
My name is Cassidy Dias, and I am from Milford, Massachusetts. I have lived in Milford my whole life and went through the Milford Public School district as a child. Now, I am an inclusion preschool teacher at the Milford Public Schools. Before I started teaching, I went to Worcester State University in Massachusetts where I studied Early Childhood Education and Psychology.
What inspired you to a position in education?
Growing up, I was always inspired by my teachers and always dreamed of one day having my own classroom and students. Growing up, I was always inspired by my teachers and always dreamed of one day having my own classroom and students. Throughout high school I worked in various settings with young children. I loved the idea of helping children grow and develop, so I took early childhood courses at my high school. In these courses, I volunteered in a Kindergarten classroom where I tutored an ESL (English as a second language) student who was at a low reading level. I taught him sight words (familiar words seen in children books), such as “the” or “is”. Through teaching these sight words and reading books to him, I was able to help him get to the appropriate reading level he needed to go to first grade. That experience was amazing! I loved seeing his growth in that short amount of time. This experience made me think about how awesome it would be to be a teacher where I can make a difference in these young children’s lives.
What was your path there?
I went to Worcester State University to study Early Childhood Education and Psychology. One of the most beneficial aspects from studying Education at the college level is all the hands-on opportunities to student teach at local schools. During my junior year, I was a student teacher at a local preschool in Worcester where I was expected to observe the teacher to learn different teaching methods as well as behavior management methods. I was also able to create and implement my own lessons. During my senior year, I was a student teacher in a first-grade classroom where I was given more responsibility. I was able to apply what I learned throughout my four years at school. These responsibilities included creating a behavior management plan for my students, creating lessons that aligned with the Massachusetts teaching frameworks, and creating a communication plan with the student’s families.
After I graduated college, I became a behavior assistant at the public preschool in Milford, MA. I worked one-on-one with a child who had Down Syndrome. It was challenging to manage her behaviors as well as making sure she was included in the daily classroom routine. After a few months at this position, a teaching position opened at the same preschool in Milford, which is where I went to preschool. After a few interviews with the director of the preschool, director of the special education department, and the superintendent, I was offered the position where I could finally start my childhood dream of being a classroom teacher!
What about your job brings you the most joy? What challenges you the most?
Being an inclusion teacher comes with a lot of joy but also many challenges. As an inclusion teacher, your class is made up of special education students and regular education students. I love inclusion because all the students are involved in the classroom playing and learning together. What challenges me the most is that I must modify and accommodate the lessons for all the special education students as well as the regular education students. Not every study is the same, so I may have to make five different modifications to one lesson depending on the lesson. All students have different interests, strengths, and weaknesses, so I must keep those in mind when planning the day to make sure all students are interested and will benefit from the lessons for the day. Although this can be very challenging, the biggest joy from being a teacher is seeing the students grow and develop throughout the school year. Comparing each child’s skills from September to June is what makes being a teacher so rewarding. After just recently completing my first year as a teacher, I took great pride and joy when reflecting on the progress each of my students made over the course of the entire school year. Comparing each child’s skills from September to June is what makes being a teacher so rewarding. After just recently completing my first year as a teacher, I took great pride and joy when reflecting on the progress each of my students made over the course of the entire school year. I was so proud of my students and proud to say I was their preschool teacher! Although their progress and growth brought me the most joy, it also makes it so challenging to say goodbye to your students every year. What I love most about teaching is having a fresh start every year with a new group of children that I can watch grow and learn over that school year.
What obstacles have you faced, internal or societal, in your involvement in education?
I think one of the biggest obstacles myself and other teachers face is the perspective that we have summers off, easy hours, and many vacations throughout the school year. In my first year of teaching, I have had many friends and family members express how my job is “glamorous” because of all the time I have off. What people don’t realize is how much of our own free time teachers put into their job. Every weekend we must plan our weekly lesson plans. Over the summer most teachers are in their classroom setting it up for their new class. After school we are writing evaluations, report cards, IEPs (individualized education plans for special education students), as well as getting the classroom set up for the following school day. Teachers do so much “behind the scenes” work on their own free time that most people don’t understand. This “behind the scenes” work is the backbone of what makes us teachers and our students successful. Teachers do so much “behind the scenes” work on their own free time that most people don’t understand. This “behind the scenes” work is the backbone of what makes us teachers and our students successful.
What advice would you give SHEs considering a career path or continuing their journey in education?
Work hard, stay confident, and remember how much of an impact you are going to have on your students’ lives! Being a teacher is so rewarding and humbling which makes all the challenges worth it.
ICYMI: Episode 9 of #SHEspeaks is available! Listen to Dr. Anjali Forber-Pratt’s story here!