“Student Outcomes”: Tiffany Brattina

“Student Outcomes” is a continuing series of interviews with my former students who are now experiencing “real life” after college. Considering how much of our work is based on the assumption that “learning outcomes” will be met, I thought it would be a good way to catch up with them and to see what sort of impact college has had on their lives in the long term. Past students interested in participating should e-mail me. Comments, as always, are appreciated. — Michael Arnzen

Tiffany Brattina, Seton Hill U class of 2007
Start with a brief bio that tells us first where you are now, then what your status was in college (e.g. “Creative Writing major, Volleyball player, Tetris fan, whatever.) Let your personality show.

Since leaving SHU I have thrown myself into my teacher career. In the spring of 2008 I worked as a substitute teacher for the Allegheny Intermediate Unit (AIU). Last June I was hired as an Autism Teacher at Bennett Elementary School. Bennett is part of the Prince William County School System and is in Manassas, VA. I moved to Virginia in July of last year and haven’t looked back.

In college I was an English Literature Major pursuing teaching certifications in Elementary and Special Education. I also enjoyed getting involved in campus activities. I was the president of two clubs and served as an officer of two others over the four years that I was on campus. My favorite of the activities I was involved in was Make-A-Wish.

Tell us where you thought you’d be now, back when you were a college freshman.

As a college freshman I never imagined that I would be living in another state so far from my family. I thought that I would be living in Pittsburgh and teaching elementary school in a local Catholic elementary school.

Describe your college experience in one word. Then elaborate in no more than five sentences.

Growth. In my four years on the Hill I grew from a young girl into a woman ready to enter the teaching field. When I stepped into Brownlee on the first day of college I was wholly unprepared for how naïve I was. With help from the people I now consider my closest friends, I learned how to live independently and to rely more on myself than on my family. I also gathered the skills I would need to be successful in the teaching field.

Describe one very specific lesson from the college classroom that you’ll never forget. Give us concrete details. Tell us not only what it taught you, but also how and why it worked.

It wasn’t necessarily a classroom lesson, but it was a lesson that a teacher taught me. It was the end of my freshman year and a teacher (who shall remain nameless) asked me to remain behind a moment because the teacher had a question for me. As the professor handed me my final project I was asked if teaching was really what I wanted to do with my life because I didn’t seem to get the basics. The exact words that were given to me before we parted were, “I would consider your options and try to pick a different field.” I didn’t know what to say. I was flabbergasted, hurt, angry, and scared all at the same time. I remember trying to hold back tears that were trying to escape and to make a graceful exit.

Later that night, after thoroughly bashing the professor with my friends, I made a decision that not only is teaching what I wanted to do with my life, but it was what God put me here to do. I think that I was supposed to learn that sometimes what we thought we wanted wasn’t exactly right for us, but what the professor really taught me was determination. In the following semesters I did everything in my power to put my best foot forward in all of my education classes. If I needed help, I went to those I knew would assist without judging me. My determination not only spurred my desire, but because of the lesson this teacher unexpectedly taught me I received the Rita Leseman Award for Excellence in Elementary Teaching. It was also determination that helped me to begin the Autism 3-5 program at Bennett where I am currently teaching.

If there was thing that I would love to pass on to students entering into college (and I’ve shared this with my brother that is entering Seton Hill in the fall) it is that determination for what you believe in will take you a long way.

What do you know now that you wish someone would have taught you in school? How might that lesson best be taught?

I know now how many different types of learning disabilities and disorders there are in the world. I had many classes that helped us to learn what some of the major disabilities are out there, but I think that I wish there were more lessons or even classes that helped students to specialize with their bachelors. I do think that it should be required that all teachers entering into special education should be taught more about Autism and the different ways that it is being treated. Also, that the teacher candidates are given a class on social skill teaching techniques. This is taught, but I think that an entire class fro the special education teachers would be beneficial.

What teaching method(s) were you subjected to that never made a dent on your learning?

I think that the method I hated the most was the “busy” work that I felt I was subjected to. When the work didn’t seem like it would or should be important to what I was learning I would procrastinate almost to the danger point.

What college experience did you find most displeasing at the time, but now recognize as an important contribution to your learning?

The portfolio. I know that everyone complains about it, but I know now that had I not made that both the college portfolio and then the English portfolio I would never have known how to begin when I put together a portfolio to send out with my job applications. I believe that it was this skill that helped me to get the job that I have today.

What habits — good and bad — did you pick up in school, that you still continue to apply?

  • Organization of my work and computer
  • Reading all the time (even to the extreme displeasure of those closest to me because I sometimes find myself blocking out everything around me)
  • Procrastination
  • Asking for help
  • Writing Lesson Plans

What do you miss about the college classroom, if anything?

The thing I miss most about the college classroom is getting to interact with those that are my age. I love teaching, but in my area of Special Education I don’t get to co-teach very often because my students are all self-contained. This means that they are only in the regular education classroom for a portion of the day and that is usually during their specials (art, music, and PE).

If there was one suggestion you would make to college teachers everywhere, what would it be?

Remember that at one point you were a student too.

THANK YOU, Tiffany, for showing us a new teacher’s viewpoints, and for all your honest feedback. Your determination clearly is paying off. I wish you all the best in your new career!
Read more “Student Outcomes”!

Published by

Michael Arnzen

Professor of English, Seton Hill University.

2 thoughts on ““Student Outcomes”: Tiffany Brattina”

  1. Thanks Dr. A for giving me a chance to catch up with you and to help future students! I think that your interviews are awesome! I was glad that I could be a part of it!

  2. I particularly like Tiffany’s response to the final question: “Remember that at one point you were a student too.”
    This is advice easy to recall *and* easy to forget!

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