Jillian Wilsey

EdM ’10, Education Studies

Jillian Wilsey.

1)    What is your current position and place of employment?

I am an instructor of engineering at Niagara County Community College. I also serve as the program coordinator for the engineering studies program. In my position, I teach the engineering studies courses, as well as mathematics and mechanical technology courses.

2)    What path led you to attaining your current position?

I was a practicing engineer, last working for Praxair, Inc. After marrying and having two children, my husband and I decided that I would resign my position to stay home with the kids. I still wanted to work once my kids were in school so I thought I might be able to transition to a position in education—most likely teaching mathematics in high school. I decided to go back to college to prepare for a certification in mathematics education. About the same time, I began working as an adjunct at Erie Community College teaching mechanical technology courses. After doing some substitute teaching at both middle and high school level and teaching engineering and mathematics at the college level, I found I preferred teaching college-level courses. Eventually, I wound up as an adjunct at Niagara County Community College and was able to transition from teaching engineering and mathematics as an adjunct to teaching full-time.   

3)    How did your education in GSE prepare you for this position?

While I had extensive education and work experience in engineering, I did not have any education or experience in teaching. My education in GSE focused mainly on the teaching aspect, rather than the technical, engineering aspect. I knew the engineering but I did not know how to best pass this knowledge on to students. GSE gave me the tools I needed to be an effective teacher. I was accustomed to working and effectively communicating with people, however, it was on a professional level. I had no experience or knowledge of how to teach others what I knew so they could understand it.

4)    What did you learn in your degree program that was the most beneficial?

I learned the aspects and nuances of effective teaching. This includes educational theories, how to structure my teaching to reach a diverse array of learners, and how to incorporate different methods of teaching, not just standing in front of a class lecturing. I also learned how to critically analyze my methods and how to use formative evaluations for my students to determine whether my methods were effective or if they needed to be revised to help students.

5)    What was your favorite part or your most memorable experience during your degree program?

The best part of this degree program is the camaraderie that exists among the students and remains long after graduation. Most of the classwork was done in groups. Students really get to know one another and remain in touch long after they have graduated from the program. This fosters a lifelong environment of collaboration, help and support. Employed students who know about job openings will pass the information along to fellow students. Employed students who need assistance or support can depend on fellow students to help them.

I completed my EdM in educational studies and then decided to come back for my PhD in curriculum, instruction and the science of learning because being in this degree program was such a positive experience that really helped me grow as an educator.

6)    How have you impacted your local community through your work?

For the past two years, I, along with two other of my colleagues, have been involved with the Niagara Falls School District. The district received a grant to begin a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) program for their elementary students using Lego WeDo materials. These materials have kids building Lego “robots” and then programming them through a laptop computer. A variety of lessons can be tied into the activities, including ELA (English language arts), mathematics, science and social studies. The district asked for help in learning how to build and program the robot activities, creating lesson plans using the Lego materials, and training their elementary school teachers in how to effectively incorporate these materials into their teaching. We put together lessons and brought them into various elementary classrooms to work with the kids. We also conducted workshops for the elementary teachers to get them comfortable with the materials so they could begin to work on their own to incorporate STEM activities into their classes. This was one of the most rewarding projects I have ever worked on. The elementary kids absolutely had a blast working with the Lego activities and surprisingly were interested in the associated lesson and did very well with it!

7)    What accomplishments (e.g., awards, publications) have you achieved that demonstrate the work you do?   

I co-authored two scholarly research articles. One article was published in Teacher and Teacher Education and the other article was in Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education. I also was the lead author for a chapter published in the Proceedings of the 34th Annual Meeting of the North American Chapter of the International Group for the Psychology of Mathematics Education.

8)    What advice would you give to current students looking to enter your field?

Be certain teaching is what you really want to do and then work as hard as you can at being the best teacher you can be. It is definitely not easy and not stress-free. However, it is one of the most rewarding things I have ever done. There is no better feeling than being able to teach someone and see that moment when they really get it and are excited about it. There is no better feeling than being able to help them, whether it is with a problem, a career decision or whatever. Be sure to put yourself out there…volunteer for things, expand your knowledge and keep up-to-date.