Teachers in the Briarcliff School District can leave an impression on you for life. When she was a sixth grader at Briarcliff Middle School, Sophia Tang took a math class with math and special education teacher Austin Perry, who co-taught the class with Amanda Schwartz. She stayed in touch with him throughout middle school, as well as high school.
So, when it came time to select her senior internship, it was only fitting that she would do her internship with him. For the past few weeks she has been helping Mr. Perry during his 8th grade resource center and 8th grade math strategies classes.
In just a few short weeks, Sophia has already learned many life skills, such as how to be approachable and how to have more patience.
“I learned to be open and patient. Some students don’t ask for help and sometimes you just have to ask them if they are okay,” she said. “When I was able to help a student in class, I was able to connect with them more and it taught me that students will reach out, but that first you have to be approachable.”
Sophia also learned how to help channel students’ energy for something positive.
“Some of the students that I am helping have a lot of excess energy. Mr. Perry told me that he copes with this by having the students do something to ease their minds,” she said. “For example, going outside, going to the wellness center, or listening to music. Middle school students can get stressed from the amount of work given to them, so, it’s important to have that balance between work and play,” she added.
One of Sophia’s jobs as an intern is helping the students prepare for the New York State science test.
“I answer any questions they may have in the workbook. Outside of the classroom, I review the workbook and create answer keys so that they can check their work,” she said. “I’m passionate about science and I’m using what I learned in high school to help the students.”
Sophia is hoping the internship will help her improve her communication skills.
“I’m usually a shy person but I love tutoring students, so I’m hoping this experience will help me get a better sense of how I communicate,” she said. “It’s important to be straightforward and only talk about one thing at a time with the students. Otherwise it can be overwhelming for them. I observe how Mr. Perry teaches and I also think about how I can help students understand the material.”
Sophia plans to major in psychology on the pre-med track so Mr. Perry’s classes are a good place to practice communication and listening skills.
“I can practice those skills with the students and improve how I interact with them,” she said. “Many of the students I work with have an individual education plan because of a learning disability. Since I also had IEP when I was in middle school and learned differently than my peers, I understand what the students are going through.”
Sophia regards Mr. Perry as someone from whom she can learn many life lessons.
“He is not just my teacher, he is also my friend and mentor. He helped me in high school even though by then he was no longer my teacher,” she said. “We always find time to meet up and talk. And through those talks, he has taught me more than what is in the classroom: he has taught me about life and guided me through it.”
Sophia will take many lessons with her when she graduates and begins college in the fall.
“I realized how much effort it takes to be a teacher – it’s not just about teaching the material, it’s also about being open to the students,” she said.