Core Team Leader, Business Education Programs
Broome-Tioga County BOCES Alternative Sites
Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services
Binghamton, NY, USA
Field: Business Education
“I am always looking for a better way to share information with students, a better way to teach,” says Suzanne Gorman Messina, who has served as an educator for the past three decades. This philosophy, along with her patience, drive and zeal for the profession has made her successful. “I want everyone to feel good about what they are learning.” For the last 20 years, Ms. Gorman Messina has been a valuable asset to the Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services, where she teaches students who have transferred from other districts because they need more one-on-one instruction or need to work in smaller groups. It is in this vocational alternative school environment where she is able to make them feel comfortable, thus giving them a better chance to learn.
In addition to her stint as a business teacher, Ms. Gorman Messina serves as a team leader for business education programs for Broome-Tioga County BOCES Alternative Sites. On a daily basis, she is charged with teaching employability and professional skills to ninth- and 10th-grade students, preparing them for a successful entry into the world of work. She also oversees the career cluster program, career and financial management, career skills, and job preparation and procedures. Although her primary concern is seeing her students thrive, she states, “education isn’t just about teaching students, it’s about helping other teachers learn what we can use to relate more to the technology-oriented student in today’s society.”
Ms. Gorman Messina doesn’t plan to stop learning and believes that 85 percent of what is taught to the learner is retained by the instructor. A graduate of The Citadel School of Education with a Master of Education in Counselor Education, she also holds certification in guidance counseling and business education. She is a former member of the Broome County Legislature, and is the secretary of the Broome County Democratic Executive Committee, and the vice president of the Broome County Ladies’ Ancient Order of Hibernians. She also serves as a Broome County Medical Reserve Corps volunteer.
In addition to her time spent educating the next generation, she has been active in the Democratic Party for more than 20 years and is very involved within her community. As an educator for 33 years and a former Broome County legislator, she credits her successful career to the support she received from her husband, her parents, and in particular, to the inspiration she receives from her mother, a lifelong politician. In the coming years, she aims to experience continued growth within the employability program and remain active with the local government.
Conversation with Suzanne Gorman Messina, M.Ed.
Worldwide Publishing: What characteristics help to separate you from other teachers?
Suzanne Gorman Messina: I am very passionate about what I teach, about learning and about sharing information with not just students, but fellow teachers. I also have a lot of patience.
What motivates you?
One of the reasons why I love working at Broome-Tioga Board of Cooperative Educational Services is because there is a continual push to upgrade your teaching skills. There is always a better way to teach and more information that you can bring in. We have worked very hard incorporating technology in the classroom and I have spent time developing activities so that students can present materials to each other.
I like to help people and see them be successful. When you are helping others, you are making the world a better place.
What lessons have you learned as a professional in your field?
The character education curriculum is critical. It’s important that everyone is caring, cooperative, respectful and responsible. We are also working hard to integrate a bullying prevention curriculum to make schools safer, and feel safer for students.
What is the most significant issue facing your profession today?
There are a lot of people who think teaching is very easy, which is one of the problems we are facing right now. Teaching has, in fact, become far more complicated. Students seem to require a lot more structure socially and emotionally because the world is continually changing. While the needs of students are continually increasing, administrators and teachers are expected to do more and more with less and less funding.
Did you ever consider pursuing a different career path or another profession?
I didn’t know that I wanted to teach. I was a guidance counselor and an assistant principal briefly, which I enjoyed, but I missed the daily interaction with students in the classroom. I felt that I could be more beneficial to the students if I was able to interact with them on a daily basis and use my counseling skills in my teaching.
What do you find to be the most rewarding aspect of your profession?
The most rewarding aspect of my profession is celebrating the successes of students, no matter how small or large. Also, watching a student do well on a test and seeing their face light up when they do well, after not doing well before, is rewarding. One of my greatest joys is graduation. I have been asked to give the keynote speech at graduation on a couple of occasions and I am able to incorporate something positive that each graduate has accomplished in terms of caring and cooperation and congratulate them on successfully achieving this goal.
What advice can you offer fellow members or others aspiring to work in your industry?
You need to have patience and a sense of humor. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you are not going to be able to reach the students. You have to be able to laugh at yourself.
Who have been your mentors or people who have greatly influenced you?
My parents had the greatest influence on me. They always encouraged us to work hard and go out of our way to help others and were always there to support us in times of need. My husband is always encouraging and supportive — no matter how many hours I spend at school or doing school work at home rather than coming home to play. No matter whether I need help at an Odyssey of the Mind tournament, a Ladies Ancient Order of Hibernian event, or a political event, my husband is always ready, willing, and able to help.
What changes have you observed in your industry/field since you started?
When I first started teaching business courses, we were teaching shorthand and typing courses (with typewriters), as well as using chalk boards and overhead projectors with transparencies. Both of those courses are obsolete. We teach keyboarding on computers and various software applications utilized in the operation of computers. Every classroom has a SMART Board with smart technology, and we use projectors that operate from our computer. Rather than driving to a different building for a meeting, we hold meetings via Web cam. Grades and attendance are completed electronically. It sometimes feels like a completely different world.
How do you see these changes affecting the future of your industry?
The changes mentioned above have enabled us to address a wide variety of learning styles more effectively and to differentiate instruction. It is much easier to check which assignments are missing and to have students utilize the computer activities utilized in class to make up the work that they have missed. It has also enabled teachers to share materials more quickly and troubleshoot problem areas to more effectively deliver the information to students.
On what topic(s) do you consider yourself to be an expert?
Job readiness, career exploration, and financial literacy are the topics that I work with the most extensively.
What short-term and long-term career goals are you currently pursuing?
Short-term goals I am currently pursuing include incorporating additional SMART Board products throughout my high school. Many of us utilize the technology extensively, but my goal is for all of us to utilize the technology to help move students forward in a positive direction.
My long-term goals include sharing the developed Smart Technologies with the alternative business sites and entering the developed curriculum for all of the courses across the alternative schools in Broome-Tioga BOCES into a Web program that will enable us to readily access each other’s materials and perhaps share those materials outside the organization.
How do you plan to achieve these goals?
The short-term technology goals are being pursued through a technology committee that I am an active participant in. The long-term technology and curriculum goals with the business teachers for all Broome-Tioga BOCES High School alternative sites are being met through periodic meetings of the business content team.
What is the most difficult obstacle or challenge you have faced in pursuit of your goals?
The most difficult obstacle and challenge that we face is the diminishing funding available for educators and the distance between the alternative schools.
What is your favorite or least favorite work-related task to do and why?
My favorite work task is teaching class. I love the challenge of presenting the information in a manner that is understandable to the group. I love to see the light bulb come on, and I love it when students jump up and ask if they can “operate the SMART Board” during the activity and watch them gain confidence as they work with the class.