Cecile Balekji ‘11Ed
When Cecile Balekji ‘11Ed visited St. John’s University’s Queens, NY campus as a prospective student, it was love at first sight. “The very first time I came here, I really loved what I saw,” she said with a smile. “It was springtime and everyone was out on the lawn hanging out. I could see that these people were really close to each other.”
Not surprisingly, Cecile chose to live on campus during her subsequent four years at St. John’s, and she benefited greatly from the decision. “It really was an amazing experience. My freshman year, I lived in a learning community with other students from The School of Education,” said the native of Wayne, NJ. “We all took similar classes and bonded together. We were all there to help each other out.”
The strong feeling of community is ever-present in The School of Education, where according to Balekji, class size rarely exceeds 20 students. “It’s very personal. You’re on a first name basis with your professors and instructors,” she said. “Best of all, many of them are former teachers, so they can offer amazing insight and stories. They don’t just teach you from the textbook, they offer real world experience.”
During her freshman year, Cecile was named a Dean’s Scholar, the highest academic honor in The School of Education. Dean’s Scholars act as ambassadors for the University and represent The School of Education at major campus events and community initiatives. Application is by invitation only and a minimum of a 3.75 G.P.A. is required.
Cecile selected Adolescent Education as her major, with the help of Jason Mach, one of her favorite professors. His course, Learning and Development – Adolescence, peaked her interest in adolescent behavior, an area she finds fascinating. “Adolescents are the age where they’re trying to find themselves,” she said. “They’re capable of so much; they just need someone to give them motivation to steer them in the right direct and reach their true potential. I want to be that person.”
This past semester, she benefitted greatly from her student teaching position, as she saw firsthand how adolescents interact with their teachers and each other. “With student teaching, you get to connect with students and you get motivated,” she said. “It helps reinforce that this is what you want do and this is why you chose to do it.”
Graduate school is on the horizon for Cecile and she feels that St. John’s has prepared her well for the challenges ahead. “St. John’s helped me in every aspect of my life – from choosing the right major, to getting involved with community service to meeting new people,” she said. “Because of the relationships I had with my professors and my fellows students, I was able to grow as a person.”