On the list of things that Eric finds particularly odd, writing about himself in the third person is certainly up there near the top. Eric has a B.A. in Music, an M.F.A. In Acting, and an M.Ed. In Elementary Curriculum and Instruction. His current research interests include how we teach elementary students to communicate both in person and over technology, reforming the methodologies for the teaching of systematic action research to pre-service teachers, and culturally responsive education practices through the lens of formalized prosody instruction. More than anything, though, he loves coffee, pizza and strawberry shortcake. Not together but… well now as he’s typing this he wonders…
Eric has had a storied career spanning work in the performative and creative arts as well public education and reform. His past experiences include teaching and consultancy work with George Mason University, Fairfax County Public Schools, the Denver Center, the AmeriCorps, Google, Chipotle, Greylock Partners, True Ventures, and throughout the photography industry.
Where are you from?
I grew up in New England. I often tell folks that I’m from Maine, but truth be told, that’s just the place that has meant the most to me. Our home was about 20min north of Boston, but I escaped to Maine whenever I possibly could. Ayuh.
Describe your educational background (college/university and degrees)
I have so many interests and curiosities, I feel like I’ve been collecting degrees and certifications all my life… The story goes – I have a B.A. in Music from Colby College in Maine, an M.F.A. In Acting from the National Theatre Conservatory, and a M.Ed. From George Mason University. Along the way, I became certified as an EMT, Wilderness First Responder, Low Flying Trapeze instructor, all of the water things (lifeguard, waterski, instructor, etc), spent a couple decades as a professional photographer, and I don’t really plan on stopping any time soon…
What do you like to do when you’re not changing the world one student at a time?
I adore spending time in the kitchen. When I was a professional photographer, I worked with an incredible baker making a cookbook and got hooked on baking hearth breads. I do all the cooking for my family and can often be found cooking over an open flame. Though, if I could eat Neapolitan pizza every night and homemade apple pie for dessert… well, you’d never see me.
What class (es) do you teach at Mason?
All things education! (Social Studies Methods, Foundations, Curriculum and Management…)
Why did you decide to become an elementary teacher?
The buckets and buckets of money.
Describe your career in education so far.
I have worked in 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th grades both general education and Advanced Academics. Currently I hold a position called Innovation Teacher – basically that means that I help students make mischief and explore different ways that they might choose to communicate their ideas. I am also a PBL and Technology coach and help other teachers manage their systems, project design, and implementation of technology driven activities.
What do you love most about being an educator?
My gosh the Interactive Read Alouds. I once tried to pitch a principal to create a position called Read Aloud Specialist and I could just go from room to room all day doing Interactive Read Alouds (note: she loved the idea but, well, you know, $). Stories have been my life (see: music, acting, photography) and I believe in the power that they hold to enable people to have incredible conversations, challenge each other’s ideas in a meaningful way, and help to lower the barrier of entry to those students who might still be acquiring language or foundational knowledge.
What led you to want to teach future teachers in the ELED program at Mason?
Working with pre-service teachers is such a joy. I am constantly learning new ideas and approaches to pedagogy while also having the opportunity to address any misconceptions or unnecessary acquired habits/ideas before they begin the work in their own classroom. As a graduate of the program myself, I also am delighted to contribute to the quality of thought and instruction that I benefitted from during my time there.
Words of Wisdom
What words of wisdom do you have for students currently in the ELED program?
This is the time to get your systems in place! Think about knowledge management, how are you storing/keeping all the ideas that you know? How will you have access to them when you need them? How can you connect ideas and notes across your classes and years? One of the biggest struggles I see in beginning teachers is their lack of a strong back end organization structure. They get ideas, information, resources, etc. and they don’t know where to put it or how to store it. There are great solutions for keeping track of and connecting your ideas. Invest that time now.
What do you wish you would’ve known as a first-year teacher or what advice would you give to first-year teachers?
People always say, “first year teaching is hard.” That is true. I wish I had accepted that as a reality before I started instead of thinking, “Sure, sure, I know. It’s hard.” Had I internalized it, I believe that I would have had an easier time saying OK and really accepting that truth so I could spend my energy focussing on the work itself (instead of being overwhelmed with how difficult it was.)