Lessons from the Field: Interview with Stephen Aloia

This post is part of the The Teachers Certification Map’s “lessons from the field”, a series of posts featuring passionate, inspiring educators from across the country discussing some of the lessons that they have learned over the years that would help young teachers as they embark on their careers.

Stephen Aloia, who has a Master’s in School Administration and a Ph.D. in Ed Psych, is a professor at Cal State Univ, Fullerton in California. Stephen has been at Fullerton for 30 years. Prior to that he was a teacher, school principal and director of special education for 10 years. Stephen has also coached college, high school, and youth sports for over 30 years.

Below is our interview with Steve:

What inspired you to teach?

I have always wanted to be a teacher and a coach. I had a few great ones and they inspired me.

What classroom methods are most helpful in pushing students towards their goals?

I tend to motivate students as a coach by knowing them so well I find out how to make them want to achieve – I believe that I give them a profound belief in their abilities by showing them that they are a lot better than they think they are. They not only want someone to believe in them (which they know I do) but I let them know they have the skills to be successful. One of my best mottos is “I must give them the faith and hope in the future and the skills to be successful” –

My second best method is to follow the basic coaching strategy – “Go with their Strengths.” I then find their strength – let them become aware of it and then motivate them to use it to the max! I tend to utilize a lot of philosophical gems of wisdom from the Greeks and I explain things in detail and they begin to understand that they have the power to achieve.

I also “walk my talk” and “jog by blog” as I tell them. I used to have a private learning clinic where I specialized in underachievers by giving them a “magic feather” made up of basic skills for every situation…

What is the one thing you wish you’d known when you started in the classroom?

That I am the most important person in their academic life. That I make a big difference. That I was ordained to be there and it was not by accident – Goethe said, “When you take that first step in the right direction – Providence moves with you.” It is an axiom of life, but the teachers has to believe they are (to borrow a line from the Blues Brothers) “on a mission from God.”

It sounds simplistic but I have to believe that I am there in their life to make a significant difference…”

What did your training teach you that was most helpful in preparing you to enjoy and thrive in a classroom today?

That I will make a positive difference in the lives of my kids. That I have to make a difference or I should get out of the way and let someone else make a difference. My favorite quote with regard to this point came from Vince Lombardi – “If you aren’t fired with enthusiasm – You should be fired with enthusiasm.”

I am always fired with enthusiasm and it is contagious. The Greeks taught me to fully comprehend these important points

1. The purpose of education is to make men good.

2. Education is one of the three cooperative arts, along with farming and medicine.

3. Aristotle stated that teachers should be the students’ “Best friend” – Not their “Buddies.” A best friend looks out for your moral welfare, and I took that to heart.

Do you know someone with great insights to share with young teachers, or do you want to be considered for an interview? If so, please email us at hello@certificationmap.com.

This is a guest post from our journalist Alex J. Mann.  You can subscribe to his blog here and follow him on Twitter here.

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