Ricca is a fifth-grade special education teacher at P.S. 13Q Clement C. Moore in Queens, New York, offering enhanced support for children whose needs cannot be fully met in a general education classroom.
For Cassandra Ricca ’15, M.A. ’16, there are no wrong answers.
Ricca is a fifth-grade special education teacher at P.S. 13Q Clement C. Moore in Queens, New York. Her classroom is self-contained and offers enhanced support for children whose needs cannot be fully met in a general education classroom.
While the job can be draining, it has pushed Ricca to climb heights that previously seemed insurmountable.
“I wasn’t one of those people who knew they wanted to teach when they were seven years old,” said Ricca, adding that she entered Adelphi without a solid idea of what she wanted to study. “My family asked me to consider it because they saw me as very patient and creative.”
Willing to take a leap of faith, Ricca enrolled in the Scholar Teacher Education Program (STEP) in her second semester at Adelphi. She soon found inspiration among her professors, particularly Associate Professor Emily Kang, Ph.D. “She was so caring and motivating,” Ricca said. “I thought, ‘I want to be like her when I grow up.’”
The Jaggar Community Fellows Program provided the perfect outlet for Ricca to put her new motivation to the test. She spent two consecutive years as a fellow: first with Girls Inc. of Long Island and then with the Long Island Children’s Museum. Both experiences helped Ricca get acquainted with networking, the nine-to-five commute and other professional realities in a setting that compelled her to go the extra mile.
“I had the chance to do something that affected the community in a meaningful way,” she said. “I felt like I made a difference.” Giving back and making positive change are principles that continue to inform Ricca’s classroom philosophy.
The Center for Career and Professional Development also made a lasting impression on Ricca’s career path. She began working there as an intern, was promoted to student worker and finally became a graduate assistant while obtaining her master’s degree. In addition to building up her résumé, hosting interview preparation courses and undergoing career counseling, Ricca found a great supply of strength and encouragement at the career center. “They were like a second family,” she said.
One of Ricca’s main goals is to pay forward the support she has received. “Finding people to be in your corner is so important,” she observed, remembering how grateful she was to have a strong support system in place.
In spite of the stress that can accompany tough situations at work, Ricca strives to maintain an optimistic outlook. “It’s hard to believe in yourself when you’re still new at something,” she noted. “But if you give it your best effort, you will keep getting better.”This article appeared in the Career Compass Spring 2017 Newsletter.