Lilleen Ferraro ’06, M.A. ’07, and her daughter, Sarah Russell, share a common bond—Adelphi University.
by Cecil Harris and Efe Tanci“If I hadn’t received that [Pathways to Teaching Scholarship], I wouldn’t have been able to finish school.”–Lilleen Ferraro ’06, M.A. ’07
As an Adelphi University student, Lilleen Ferraro ’06, M.A. ’07, often worked on research papers during evenings at Swirbul Library on the Garden City campus while her preteen daughter, Sarah Russell, sat at a computer station nearby.
That’s how a family legacy began. Ferraro, who was an Honors College student, earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s degree in adolescent education through the Scholar Teacher Education Program, also known as S.T.E.P., in the Ruth S. Ammon School of Education. She achieved her goal of becoming a high school science teacher while also inspiring Russell to attend Adelphi.
“I’m so proud of my mom—she supports me no matter what,” said Russell, a senior majoring in communications who wants to attend graduate school at Adelphi and eventually teach. “She likes the high school kids. But I want to do it for the [elementary school] kids.”
Ferraro, who lives in Rockville Centre, has taught science at various New York City schools. She now teaches at an alternative learning center (ALC) in Far Rockaway. ALCs are run by the NYC Department of Education for students serving a superintendent’s suspension from a regular high school.
“We follow the same curriculum as the rest of the school system—students get a regular high school diploma,” she said. “In the beginning, the kids are a little rough. But they wind up having respect for me. I’ve had kids say, ‘I hated science. Now I love science.’”
Ferraro makes science fun by incorporating food into her teaching—for example, cake batter and chocolate chips have proven a delicious way to simulate minerals in lava. But her road to becoming a teacher tested her resolve. As a divorced single mother who juggled jobs as a hairdresser and cashier, Ferraro earned a Pathways to Teaching Scholarship while attending Adelphi.
“If I hadn’t received that scholarship, I wouldn’t have been able to finish school,” she said. “To pay back the scholarship, I was told I needed to teach at a high-needs school. That’s what I wanted to do anyway.”
As a busy student, Ferraro occasionally needed extra time to complete an assignment or had to make up a missed lab class. She remembers her academic adviser, Robert David Jones, Ph.D., an associate professor of biology in the College of Arts and Sciences, as being very supportive.
“All I did was encourage her to finish her work on her own schedule rather than mine,” said Dr. Jones, an Adelphi professor for 41 years. “Sometimes a professor’s timetable needs to be flexible to allow success to occur in unique student situations.”
Russell has taken Dr. Jones’ class and been told by the professor that she looks just like Ferraro. No surprise, then, that when asked if they would like to see the Adelphi family legacy continue for a third generation, mother and daughter answered in unison:
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