OHS Castleton Grad Returns to Student-Teach
Photo: Nicole Piccini is a student-teacher in a classroom where she used to be the student at OHS Castleton.
OHS Castleton alumna Nicole Piccini, Class of 2007, is back in the classroom, this time as a student-teacher. Ms. Piccini, a senior at Molloy College studying for her degree in Adolescent English Education and Special Education, with a minor in American Studies, is working with English teacher Francis Gillespie.
"It's surreal," said Ms. Piccini, "but this is a great program and I assume that's why it's been around so long. It really helped me and my brother." She actively pursued placement at OHS Castleton, first asking Mr. GIllespie if he would be open to working with her and then persuading Molloy to make the arrangements.
Ms. Piccini first came to OHS Castleton as a sophomore. "I just learn better in a small environment....Molloy is a small school too." She is open to the possibility of teaching in an alternative school.
"Now that Nicole is back and has come full-circle it shows our students that there is hope, that they can pursue their dreams and have what they want if they work towards it," Mr. Gillespie said.
Student Serina Cafiero put it succinctly. When asked what it's like to be taught by someone who used to be a student at her school, she simply stated, "She gets it."
Flying Through The Air As A Life Skill: The OHS Castleton Field Trip
There's a lot one can learn while ziplining high above the forest. Patience, perseverance, endurance, teamwork, confidence and courage, just to name a few. So students at OHS Castleton set off on an adventure last week, headed to Adventure Park in Wheatley Heights, home to an aerial forest with a variety of climbing and zipline challenges. Students and staff were trained with harnesses, climbing and ziplining equipment before taking to the treetops. The trip was a component of the Castleton Field Experience, an innovative, credit-based course that incorporates critical thinking and reflection through field trips and other opportunities beyond the classroom walls. The trip was organized by social studies teacher, Jackie Wick. "Although the students are from different friend groups, they came together to encourage one another and talk each other through challenging obstacles," she said. Principal Brendon Mitchell added, "It was a great way to build community among students and staff."
What's It Like to Work for Google? Castleton Students Describe Visit
"It's like they took someone's childhood fantasy and made it a reality," said Ryan Umansky, describing how Google's New York City headquarters offers its employees video games, a rock wall, slides to get from one floor to the next because elevators in the building are slow, and scooters to travel quickly between buildings.
The students took a field trip to Google, accompanied by Career Preparation Coordinator Stephanie Matina, as part of the Guidance Department’s career exploration program. The program teaches students how to write resumes and cover letters, sets up practice job interviews and offers several opportunities for students to shadow professionals and visit workplaces. Each year, all 10th graders participate in Career Day.
"They were making fresh pizza right in front of us and we were all hungry!" said Anthony Basil, noting that there were several gourmet restaurants on the premises and that lunch is free for all employees. Nola Galligan chimed in to describe the micro kitchens that are stocked with free snacks and never more than 150 feet away from any Googler's work space.
Trying to recall everything they'd seen and learned, the students were interrupting themselves and one another mid-sentence. "All of the offices were spacious,” said Joseph Albert, explaining how an area designed to look like a beehive offered honeycomb-like spaces for distraction-free working. “There's a whole floor devoted to YouTube. Google owns YouTube and Blogspot,” Dan Johnston recalled. “The stairwells have solar wires that connect to light fixtures to light up the staircase. I fell in love with the building,” said Holly Iannerelli. "One wall shows all of the currently trending Google searches,” said Dan.
The students learned that the impressive employee perks have a strategic purpose. Free lunch and snacks save staff the time of going out in search of places to eat. Instead, they can grab lunch in the building and eat with colleagues.
Google is big on teamwork and looks for different ways to put people together within and across teams. "You can meet people you might not ordinarily meet," said Logan Neidecker about the ping pong and pool tables, Pacman video games and Sega Genesis stations that dot the Google campus. “People talk and might have ideas for each other’s projects.”
Students also learned that creativity (aka "Googliness”) is one of Google's most important considerations in new hires. "They want people who are always learning, creative and open-minded," said Ryan Failla.
Holly said she’d love to work for Google but getting the job isn’t easy. “There’s an intensive interview process. It could take place anywhere and they might fly you to different places before deciding if you have the job.” Google hires about 4,000 people each year in the United States although Dan explained that the growth is exponential. The New York offices are split between programming and marketing.
Students asked the Google tour guide if employees ever take advantage of the flexible hours and were told that it’s rare. Typically, they were told, teams within the company hold their members accountable.
“It’s impressive how they organize people," said Ryan Failla. "We didn't see one person who wasn't smiling....everyone looks happy."
When asked if they’d like to work for Google, everyone raised their hands. Let’s hope they have Googliness.