Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a 10-part series on the 2011 Experiential Learner of the Year Award nominees. Nominees for the upperclass and freshman awards will be honored at a luncheon May 6; the winners will be revealed at Honors Convocation May 7.
The Keuka Field Period often confirms a student’s choice of major and future career. But sometimes, the opportunity to garner hands-on experience in a particular field can send a student in a different direction.
Four years ago, Chris Mazella was enrolled in the organizational communication program and hoped to try his hand at journalism. But a struggle to find an internship with a newspaper led him instead to his high school, where a former teacher suggested he observe how communication plays into teaching. After observing her 9th grade social studies classes for a couple weeks, Mazella asked if he could try teaching a lesson himself. Not only did Mazella enjoy it, but his supervising teacher told him he was a natural and could do well in the classroom.
Back on campus, Teri Spoor, who manages the IKON print shop at Keuka and supervised Mazella for four years as a work-study employee, remembers well the difference she noticed.
“He came back and changed his major to education. Had he not had that experience he wouldn’t be a teacher now,” Spoor said of Mazella, who will graduate later this month as an adolescent education major with a concentration in history and special education. “He would’ve gone on with a great career, but definitely not one he fell in love with.”
Spoor said that in her mind, Mazella is living proof of the value of experiential learning and its impact on a student.
“He’s a success story,” Spoor said, explaining why she nominated him for an Experiential Learner of the Year award.
After his first Field Period, Mazella continued on the education track, conducting subsequent internships at Lancaster Middle School, Global Concepts Charter Schools in Lackawanna, and working in the Erie (County) 1 BOCES summer school program for disabled students at West Seneca Middle School. Currently, Mazella is completing his student teaching practicum at the Marcus Whitman school district in Rushville.
“I am not only teaching content that I enjoy and do well with, I am helping out with the track team there also,” said Mazella, who competed for Keuka’s cross country team after strong success in track and field during high school. “I now am greatly anticipating what life has in store for me, as I am learning aspects of teaching and coaching. I couldn’t be happier with my decision freshman year.”
Outside the classroom, Mazella has also worked as a tutor in the Academic Success at Keuka (ASK) program, and is a member of the Teamworks!, Health and Fitness, Political Science and History, Cycling, Running and Swimming, Media and Comedy clubs. He has also served as a New Student Orientation Mentor.