From Unclear to a Teaching Career he Loves

Expert guidance and opportunities from his academic advisor at Nazareth helped Jeffery Garrett ‘18, ‘19G discover a career that he loves.

Jeffery Garrett

Garrett earned associate’s degrees in liberal arts and business from a community college but wasn’t sure what career to pursue when he transferred to Nazareth.

He was thinking of music therapy, but since he also mentioned interest in special education, his advisor — Nazareth psychology Professor Grant Gutheil, Ph.D. — recommended his course called Psychology of the Exceptional Individual.

“During one of our first classes, Dr. Gutheil discussed the idea of labels, and how labels are defining in our culture, both good and bad. In that moment, I knew I wanted to teach. I wanted to take on the kids that others found ‘too difficult’ for one reason or another,” says Garrett. “From there, Dr. Gutheil was extremely flexible as I took on shadowing opportunities and missed classes so I could teach lessons and find out if teaching was for me. That class, Dr. Gutheil, and the experiences I was fortunate to have are the most defining moments of my undergraduate years.”

After completing his majors in inclusive childhood education and psychology, Garrett went right on for a master’s in inclusive childhood education at Nazareth. Months before he graduated, he was hired as a special ed elementary teacher at Perkins Elementary School in the Newark Central School District — the district where he grew up and was a star athlete in baseball and swimming.

He offered these insights to students thinking of transferring to Nazareth or interested in becoming a teacher — or both.

Why Nazareth?

“I knew Naz was a great school and I figured that no matter what path I decided to take, Naz was the best place to do it.”

How did the transfer process go?

“Fairly easy. I remember the admissions process being super smooth, even though I was coming in at a weird time (spring semester). They found me housing, got my schedule figured out, and got me going super quickly and efficiently.”

Why did you continue at Nazareth for grad school? 

“The education faculty are the reason the program is so amazing. I had no doubts after finishing my undergrad that I needed to go back to Naz for my master’s. The connections that the staff have made have set me up for success in my professional career and helped me be prepared for the future. I really was able to hone the skills and knowledge that I learned in undergrad and then apply them practically through my placements and especially my clinical assistantship.”

What was your clinical assistantship?

“While in grad school, my research — under Dr. Kerry Dunn — examined the impact of physical and organizational interventions on the executive functioning skills of sixth-grade students. This experience benefitted me immensely, as I was able to be both a teacher and a researcher at the same time. As well, I gained valuable knowledge about how to address executive functioning skills; this is something that I now use in my current role as a special education teacher.”

How’s teaching (so far)? 

“I love it! It is both exactly what I imagined, and nothing like it at the same time. For as prepared as I was to step into my role as a teacher, I am still learning each day. Every day is an adventure that I am ready to take on!”

What would you tell someone who’s thinking about becoming a teacher, but unsure? 

“The best thing I ever did for myself when considering teaching was getting into a classroom to see if it was for me. I truly don’t think there’s a better way to figure out if you like teaching other than trying it. If you aren’t sure, reach out to a teacher you know and shadow them for a day or two. Don’t be afraid to ask questions either; the more you understand about the teaching process and the students you’re working with, the better off you are. Try and fully immerse yourself in all there is to do in a day – you’ll figure out fast if it is for you!”