Interviewed By: Joanne Choi
Meet Sara Beebe, a first-year master’s student in Education Policy and current preschool teacher in New York City. Sara recently chatted with us about her experience as a TC student and adjusting from life in the South to the Big Apple.
What were you doing prior to enrolling at TC? How would you describe your background?
Before I enrolled at Teachers College, I had graduated from my undergraduate institution and was teaching at the preschool I previously student taught at. However, I didn’t want to be a teacher my whole life, and I didn’t see being a preschool teacher as my future career. I was interested in enrolling in a graduate school with an Early Childhood Department, although I could not find many programs with Early Childhood Education departments. Teachers College had programs in Early Childhood Education and Education Policy, which were absolutely perfect with what I wanted to do. I took a Childhood Policy course as an undergraduate student, which is how my interest in Education Policy started.
Why did you choose the Education Policy program at TC?
My main reason for choosing the Education Policy program at Teachers College is because it offers an Early Childhood Education Policy specialization. Other programs I applied to did not have as much to do with what I wanted to study. The discipline of Early Childhood Education Policy isn’t defined by current standards, so I thought it would be helpful to go and see things from different perspectives and schools of thought as well as to take classes from different places. Teachers College allowed me to explore specializations depending on my interests and expand those interests. I had the opportunity to take classes in law and social work, and it was valuable to me for a university to offer that.
What have been some of your favorite courses at TC?
Some of my favorite courses at Teachers College have been in statistics and data. I didn’t have a mathematical background in software or in manipulating data or variables. My first class was a Data 2 class, which is one of the required courses in the Education Policy program. It was very influential in changing my perspective, and I asked myself if I wanted to get a specialization in data. I thought learning how to code would equip me for the future and that having a marketable new skill is important. I didn’t know how to code at all, and now, I’m pretty good at it. I ask myself what it leads to, whether to being an analyst or researcher.
How has your experience been with your classmates and other students at TC?
The community at Teachers College has proven to be awesome. I felt stifled as an undergraduate student and thought graduate school would be an opportunity to meet awesome people who would want to have discussions. I have enjoyed getting to know a lot of people in my program. My cohort is pretty big, and we are one class with everyone in it. I have also forged great friendships at Teachers College. My classmates and I forged groups in which we formed dialogues and articulated issues of personal and educational development, which I have benefited from. Going forward, I now know what to take classes in, and I know what to write about in evaluations. I didn’t necessarily know at first, but it helped me to clarify my direction and find what I actually do want to learn more about. I know I have people to share my sentiments with as well as friendships based on real life experiences.
What has your impression of NYC been so far? How was moving to the city?
I have really enjoyed New York City so far. It’s a busier, more challenging lifestyle than I previously had, but it has definitely been enlightening. I have learned more about myself and how I want to live in the future since being here. I think I was ready to be out of the South, which is where I spent my entire life; it was a transition that I welcomed. There are so many opportunities and things to do, especially for someone with such a specialized set of interests. For example, I was able to find a preschool that aligned with my beliefs about education and child development, which would have been hard to find otherwise without the multitude of options in New York City. I’ve loved getting to explore a new place and find my new “favorite” everything. The most fun part has been being able to make New York City my new home!
What tips would you offer anyone moving to NYC from out of town?
I would tell people moving here for the first time to make sure they give themselves ample time to adjust. It’s extremely exhausting to move to a new place and start a new trajectory of education, so I made it a priority to get to know my surroundings well, figure out my best routes to and from work and school, and really allow myself to acclimate to this new place. School is hard enough by itself, and with the compounded stress factors of living in a city as big and busy as New York City, it can be overwhelming.
What are your goals after you graduate?
After I graduate, I hope to work for a nonprofit or advocacy organization as a research assistant in Early Childhood Policy. This is all very tentative, as I have yet to complete internships in the field or conduct real research in my first year, but I also plan to continue my education and get my Ph.D.
What advice or tips would you give to prospective students?
Pay attention to your email. Teachers College sends out so much good information and opportunities for students and alumni, including speakers, jobs/internships, and events with free food! Utilize Teachers College Career Services, because they can help you tailor resumes and cover letters to the jobs you are applying for. Also, get to know the people in your program because, as cliché as it sounds, they will be your greatest assets for support. I cannot stress the importance of my school community in shaping my educational and professional journey, as well as being there for me during times of stress.