Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in a series of profiles on new, full-time faculty members.
One of the things that convinced Alice Harnischfeger to apply for a teaching position at Keuka was the same thing that convinced many students to apply for admission: the College’s commitment to experiential learning.
“Though we can learn much from textbooks, nothing in the ‘real world’ is textbook,” said the instructor of education, who has been teaching for more than 20 years. “The world offers myriad experiences and Field Period offers the chance to try a career before graduation so the students can get as much out of the world as they can.”
“The College’s philosophy matches my own, and I like the education department, the friendly atmosphere, and the beautiful campus. I also find the College innovative. I am excited to be here.”
Harnischfeger is completing her dissertation for a Ph.D. in education (with a concentration in teaching and curriculum) at the University of Rochester’s (UR) Warner School of Education.
“I was teaching at Penfield High School while I was a part-time student at Warner,” said Harnischfeger. “But I wanted to have the entire Ph.D. experience, including the opportunity to work on research and collaborate with fellow students more, and the ability to attend informational meetings and lectures more frequently. So, I left Penfield to be a full-time student at the University of Rochester.”
Harnischfeger was “one of those kids who always wanted to be a teacher. The aspect about teaching that is most appealing to me is just simply—and not at all simply—the people. I have always been a ‘people person’ and am fascinated by trying to understand them, both as learners and as individuals.”
After high school, Harnischfeger was told not to go into teaching because she would not find a job, so she pursued a bachelor’s degree in psychology. But the siren song of teaching was too strong to resist, so she volunteered at Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) before receiving her teaching certification in English, science, and special education.
“I was eventually hired as a teacher at RSD and taught just about everything,” she said. “I taught there for two years and at National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) as an adjunct professor.”
Harnischfeger also taught “everything” at Penfield High School for 16 years, “including special education, English, science, social studies, math, and sometimes health, too. I guess I’m a real jack of all trades,” she said. “The one continuous area I taught was English.”
Harnischfeger, who has also taught at SUNY Brockport and U of R, teaches Societal Prospective in Special Education and Educational Psychology at Keuka.
As a teacher, Harnischfeger has “always taken student teachers because I learn just as much from them as they learn from me. I love their passion and enthusiasm, and I love how they question things and their creativity. I love working with students new to teaching and I find it exciting for them.”
Harnischfeger’s dissertation is titled Identifying Construction in Relation to School Practices on Students who are Alternatively Placed in a School that is Considered Successful by State Standards.
“I want to focus on kids who have fallen through the cracks,” she said. “These are the students with no ‘label’ and other less-obvious students not recognized by the school. My goal is to always consider diverse needs, including those which may or may not be obvious.
“In schools that are considered successful, there are always a certain percentage of students that are not successful,” continued Harnischfeger. “Those are the kids on whom I want to focus. I want to get my students to understand the definition of diversity includes the full student and their needs.”
According to Harnischfeger: “I try to tell my students to teach the whole person, not just teach the content. This ties back into my research interest of trying to understand how people construct identity. I want my students to assist others in seeing the richness in each person as a unique individual and learner. It also connects to my interest in discerning the boundaries of diversity and in recognizing the resources inherent in our ‘differences.’”