February 22, 2011
Life has come full circle for Justin Cobis.
This driven and enthusiastic young alumnus teaches ninth-grade
Social Studies at Suffolk County’s Riverhead High School, the same
high school he graduated from nearly 10 years ago.
“It’s definitely a unique experience,” Justin said. “Being a
teacher at a school I went to in a community I grew up in is a
fantastic opportunity. I consider myself very fortunate to be in
Justin graduated from St. John’s University in 2006 with a B.S.
in Education and received a Master of Science in Education the
following year. He landed the teaching job at his old high school
shortly after graduating with his master’s.
“I teach three different classes of social studies,” Justin
said. “There’s the Regents class, an AP class and another one for
ESL (English as a Second Language) students. The ESL is obviously
the most challenging, since students come into the classroom with
various different levels of experience speaking English. It’s
because of that challenge, though, that I find it so rewarding as a
transition from college to career came easily for Justin thanks to
his strong involvement in St. John’s The School of Education and
its on-site training opportunities. Most notably, he received a
Graduate Assistant position with the St. John’s Gear Up Program, a
University initiative that strives to help economically
disadvantaged students graduate from middle school and high
“This basically allowed me to earn my degree while
simultaneously working in the field of Education in places like
Long Island City,” Justin said. “That helped me to see what I was
learning in person. My textbooks turned into real-life experiences
and provided me with a great resume builder and, more importantly,
Justin participated in a number of student activities and
programs during his time at St. John’s and served as a Residence
Assistant in both Hollis and Donovan Halls.
“Being an RA was a great opportunity because I got to be a big
brother to all the guys on my floor,” he reflected. “You make
programs and events for the students and when it’s all said and
done, you also end up having a lot of fun hanging out with
But it was the service opportunities at St. John’s that made the
most lasting impression on Justin, reinforcing his sense of charity
and compassion for the surrounding community. He frequently helped
out at the St. Nick’s Men’s Shelter, where he provided food and
company for the homeless.
“As an RA, I would encourage my students to come with me and
stay overnight at St. Nick’s to help out. It’s a very natural way
to serve, not corny in the least, and the residents really
connected with it. It was great to go out and spread the mission of
the school in such a rewarding way.”
Though he has already achieved his goal of becoming a
high-school Social Studies teacher, Justin hopes to accomplish more
in the coming years. He is interested in becoming a school
administrator and possibly even adjuncting with St. John’s at some
point in the future.
“Anyone who likes to be a part of their own community can easily
find a home at St. John’s,” he said. “I’m working in Riverhead and
am becoming a leader in that community, and likewise I’m keeping my
connection strong with the community here on campus. That community
connection stands out to me as one of the most defining aspects of
my time in college.”