Back to school - a new beginning not just for students
By Corey AmEnde - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Fri., Aug. 30, 2013
Stephanie Galluzzo has always felt a deep sense of purpose in her life to do something that would really make a lasting impact.
“In high school I was at the top of my class, and in a way I always thought that I was going to change the world, or if not the world, something,” said Galluzzo, who is originally from East Haven.
She had a clear vision, she just didn't know when it would come to fruition. Like most things in life, there isn't that magic crystal ball that can look into the future and provide your destiny; instead, you must use your vision as your guiding light on the journey.
After graduating high school, Galluzzo's path took her to Fordham University in the Bronx, where she graduated in 2005 with a degree in English. After graduating from Fordham, she moved to New York City and worked as an editor for Modern Bride, Elegant Bride and Parenting magazines.
“It was a lot of fun, but even as I was doing it and having a lot of fun, there was something kind of missing,” explained Galluzzo. “I would be in the beauty closet and I would look around and I'd be like, 'This is awesome,' and then I felt so shallow and it was like, 'What am I doing?'”
In 2007, she was laid off and then began working as a nanny for some families with children who had special needs. “After about a year of that, I realized that I loved working with the kids and that I wanted to move back to Connecticut and go back to school to teach special ed,” said Galluzzo. “I think even though it was hard at the time, it was a blessing that I was laid off.”
Galluzzo's path then headed back to the Constitution State, where she attended Southern Connecticut State University to pursue her master's degree in special education with a concentration in learning disabilities. She graduated this past May with her master's from Southern and a certification in special ed K-12.
With her professional qualifications in hand to be a teacher, she recently landed a job in East Hartford as a special education teacher for fifth- and sixth-graders at the Robert J. O'Brien STEM Academy on Farm Drive.
“I changed my whole life when I was 27,” said Galluzzo who is now 29, soon to be 30. “I moved, went back to school, and to be here and to be doing what I feel like I was always supposed to be doing is an amazing feeling. It sort of validates all the decisions that I've made and the choices that I've made - like to student teach and not get paid for four months - is all worth it.”
So as all the students eagerly waited outside of O'Brien school on the first day of school on Wednesday, Aug. 28, inside the school Galluzzo was making final preparations for her first day as a teacher. “I've got my schedule figured out, although I've been told that after the first day everything you think you know changes,” said Galluzzo before the start of the day. “But I feel good. I feel like I'm prepared as I could be. I'm really excited to meet the kids, that's my favorite thing is the kids.”
Galluzzo will work with 22 children in fifth and sixth grade who need some extra attention. Each grade level has two teachers who have inclusion classes where there are special ed. and general ed. students in the classroom. Galluzzo will co-teach with the grade level teacher, and a para-professional in each class, where they will provide math and reading support as needed.
“I feel like I'm finally doing what I'm supposed to be doing,” said Galluzzo. “I feel like I'm in my zone, my path.” Galluzzo's goal for the year can be summed up in a simple, yet powerful, four words - “to make a difference.”
“In special ed., depending upon the student, you're teaching a child to read,” said Galluzzo. “Even though my kids are in fifth and sixth grade, not all of them can read, and if I can give that to them, or if I can set them on that trajectory where they get to middle school or when they get to the next grade they can continue to progress, I think that's my goal.”
“I care about kids, and that's why I got into teaching. I want to change the world, but a kid is a small piece of that, so I'll take it and I do believe that I can make a difference,” added Galluzzo.