Passion for Teaching Through Service
Teaching is in Ashley Thomas’ blood. Her grandmother was a teacher in India, and her legacy inspires Ashley to this day. Since her arrival at St. John’s in 2008, Ashley has immersed herself in the life of the University with an emphasis on service and extra curricular activities.
“My interest in service brought me to St. John’s, along with the excellent reputation of The School of Education. I wanted to go into an undergraduate program with a direct link to a master’s program.” Currently, Ashley is enrolled in the BSED/MSED Childhood and Special Education program with a concentration in Science. She is looking forward to devoting her fourth year of her undergraduate degree to student teaching and the beginning of the graduate courses taken at the undergraduate level.
Raised Catholic, Ashley has felt a special connection to the University’s Catholic and Vincentian heritage. “I draw a lot from my faith. It’s comforting to have St. Thomas More Church here on campus. It’s a place I can go to Mass or just reflect.” Ashley has also served as an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist since 2009. In addition, Ashley experienced the Vincentian mission through Midnight Runs. “They gave us something very valuable — insights into their lives and situations. The experience was very meaningful.” She continued her service by volunteering at a church in Brooklyn, assisting Spanish-speaking adults learn English.
Not only does Ashley devote her time to serving the community, but she also focuses on the importance of education-based extracurricular activities.
“One of the big things I’m doing is STAR (Students Teaching Academic Responsibilities), a program in The School of Education that pairs incoming freshmen with upperclassmen, who serve as mentors. I joined in freshman year as a mentee. From sophomore year onward I’ve been a mentor.” This year, Ashley has two mentees and keeps in close contact with both.
“As a teacher your whole life is dedicated to helping others. That’s the whole point of teaching,” she stressed.
Ashley leapt at the chance to get involved with Jumpstart, an organization The School of Education partners with, whose mission is to ensure all children enter school prepared to succeed. In January, she joined a seven-member team of St. John’s students working with children from low-income backgrounds, helping them develop language, literacy and social skills.
“It was a really great experience. It’s complemented my work as an Education major by giving me additional hands-on experience teaching kids.”
Eventually, Ashley became a volunteer coordinator for Jumpstart, planning events as well as donation drives, “We do 300 hours of service at nine pre-schools in the area,” she noted, adding that she has recruited 20 new volunteers into the program.
Ashley credited the faculty of The School of Education for their tremendous support, especially Associate Dean Charisse Willis, Susan Chun, Jumpstart Senior Site Manager, and Miriam Gadlin, Jumpstart Site Manager.
“Ever since my freshman year it’s felt like a family here, I can come in any time of the day and ask for advice. Dean Willis and the other deans, and all my professors are always there. They’ve always made time for their students. We always have their support.”
A Dean’s Scholar in The School of Education, Ashley is also a member of the President’s Society, and was recruited in her junior year, having earned enough credits for senior status.
“I’ve had the greatest experience at St. John’s. I would encourage all incoming students to get involved. Your college experience is what you make it. You should make the most of it — academically, socially and with extracurricular activities. Find things related to your major and keep busy!”