Outstanding New Educator Award
April 07, 2017
Teacher finds true calling after career in business
“Since as long as I can remember, I’ve been trying to figure out what I want to be when I ‘grow up.’ The roles I’ve held since graduating from college with a business administration degree have given me great opportunities and experiences, but none felt like a lifelong career.”
After working 15 years in the business world, including real estate and financial accounting, Matt Schifano, 38, decided his true calling was teaching. He now teaches business keyboarding at Selbyville, Delaware, Middle School.
To help him master his new vocation, Schifano enrolled in the University of Delaware’s Alternative Route to Teaching (ARTC) program in 2014 and began teaching at Selbyville.
“The ARTC program provided the unique opportunity to begin teaching immediately and simultaneously obtain my teaching certification,” said Schifano, “The program made it possible for me to feel confident in even applying for this position that I had become so excited about.”
His outstanding teaching skills were quickly recognized, and Schifano was selected to receive the 2017 National Association for Alternative Certification (NAAC) Outstanding New Educator Award.
Selbyville is the only school in the Indian River School District that is running a business program with a dedicated business teacher for the sixth, seventh and eighth grades. Schifano said he feels fortunate to be able to motivate students to acquire real-world skills early in their lives.
“I knew firsthand that having these basic skillsets could afford students an opportunity as high as working for a Fortune 500 company on Wall Street,”he said. “I realized that my class would provide the basic framework for any future employment and that my varied background would allow me to engage my students.”
In his introductory class, students brainstorm about different careers they could choose. He helps them see how each one of those paths requires basic computer skills in this technology-driven world. They quickly come to realize they have a common goal — developing a sought-after lifelong skill.
Schifano strives to provide a positive environment, encouragement and the tools his students need to learn and grow. He allows each student to go at the pace that works for him, thereby providing all students the opportunity to excel even if they are not academically strong.
On the first day of class, Schifano likes to video his class, documenting their hunt-and-peck technique as they take a one-minute speed test. He then records them the last day of the class after 12 weeks. Students are amazed to see their improvement when they reflect on their accomplishments and assess their current skills against a rubric.
ARTC offers interested college graduates an alternative to the traditional route to teacher certification in Delaware. Students complete certification requirements while employed as full-time teachers, through a state-approved program of professional education course work, accompanied by intensive, school-based supervision and mentoring. The program helps students become certified teachers in one of nine “critical need” subjects, including business.
ARTC coach Jacquelyn Biggs was not surprised by Schifano’s success.
“Matt exhibits expertise with planning, delivery and management that rivals teachers with many more years of classroom experience. Students are hooked into learning with lively interaction,” Biggs said.
Frank Livoy, ARTC associate director who recommended Schifano for the award, also vouched for his expertise as an outstanding teacher, saying, “He has approached every course and training event eager to learn his new craft and is generous with his support of fellow candidates. In my methods course this past fall, he was the first candidate ever to earn 100 percent.”
While grateful for the recognition, Schifano takes even greater pride in the accomplishments of his students.
“Of all my previous positions over the past 15 years, I have never had a single year in which I could demonstrate so much success.”
Schifano received the national award at the NAAC annual conference in San Antonio, Texas, in March. He said he cannot be more contented for having left the world of high achievers to follow his heart’s passion.
“I will be forever grateful to the ARTC program for making it possible for me to make a major change at this unique point in my life to pursue a career where I will continue to see an unbeatable return on my investment.”