Peter Nowakoski '90

Peter Nowakowski

August 2013, I accepted a position at Union County Vocational Technical Schools (UCVTS) in Scotch Plains, NJ. UCVTS serves all 22 school districts in the county with five separate schools and several smaller academies. In addition to more traditional vocational education, the district offers programs in green construction, information technology, childcare, health care, performing arts and other disciplines. All students graduate ready not only for college but also with some professional certification. My main role is in the Magnet High School teaching all ninth grade English sections, and I, along with my partner in social studies, am the only teacher to teach every ninth grade student. Magnet, like many of the schools at UCVTS, is a selective “test” school that only accepts a handful of applicants from each district, and our students focus on Engineering and design in receiving CAD certification.

Before I returned to Teacher Prep, I had taught in a variety of environments, from being a TA in traditional English classrooms as a graduate student, to teaching ESL/EFL in the US and abroad, to working as an adjunct, to teaching in kitchens (I had in intermediate career as a chef), to tutoring in a variety of subjects, among others and did not realize how demanding or complex a job teaching at the primary or secondary level can be. TPP helped me organize all the skills and strategy I had picked up informally over the years and built a strong foundation for the profession. I was recently struck in a series new hire training sessions and professional workshops how much of what was presented as important new information for teachers were areas we had covered in some depth in TPP and that I felt quite comfortable with.

What the program has done is allow me to focus on the craft of teaching and my students, with whom I have strong, individual relationships, and that in turn has kept me focused and engaged in the profession. For the student who struggles with a demanding workload at the beginning to finish the year strong, to the ones who excel from the get go and publish in a national journal, the day-to-day takes care of itself.