Sierra Ross is a recent graduate of Arizona State University and was on her way to start working in a special education classroom as a teacher’s aid. Next she had plans to attend graduate school. Then, Coronavirus quickly changed those plans.
Interview by Kristina Gardner
KG: I’m gonna ask you a couple of questions regarding your career plans pre and how COVID has affected them, if you are applying to any internships, and what your plans are now with COVID being extended. Where did you graduate from?
SR: I graduated from Arizona State University.
KG: Congratulations! What did you study?
SR: Major in Early Education with a minor in Special Education
KG: Wonderful! I also studied something similar- Liberal Studies and Education. What was your ideal career plan pre-pandemic?
SR: Yeah, so my original plan was to start working at a school as an aide in a special education classroom. I planned to work my way up the ladder and then attend grad school. However, schools aren’t open right now so I can’t do that.
KG: Yeah, unfortunately. So where were you planning to attend grad school?
SR: Anywhere, I didn’t have a specific school that I wanted to apply to. Honestly, anywhere with a really good credential and early education program.
KG: What are the requirements for a masters program in education? Do you need to have volunteer hours before applying? Good letters of recommendation? Every master’s program application process is different.
SR: Pretty much all of the above. For every program that I have looked at for early education, you definitely need to have volunteer hours in the classroom. Which I, fortunately, have accumulated.
KG: So now that grad schools are going to be remote learning for the foreseeable future. Are you still interested in going to grad school? Are you planning to postpone when you will attend? What are your thoughts on grad school now during the pandemic?
SR: I’m still interested in going to grad school and if anything, I kind of want to go more now because everything keeps getting pushed back so of course I’m going to have to change my plan a little bit.
I would love to start working for internships now just to gain some experience while I’m waiting in this pandemic. I’m also looking into opportunities to tutor. I know a lot of people who have kids who are in special education classes and need someone to kind of help them out a little bit at home with their school.
KG: Especially since most schools will be online for the next year.
SR: Yeah. And, so many teachers can’t make the trip to help their students due to COVID. I’ve seen a lot of moms post on Facebook pages that they need help or moms that my mom knows. I’m interested in seeing if I can get volunteer hours fulfilled through them.
KG: So Facebook is one website that you’ve used to look for job opportunities post grad during the pandemic?
KG: What other websites do you use to look for internships and job opportunities?
SR: I haven’t looked so much recently. Mostly just connecting with people I know. My mom volunteers for my little sister’s school, so she has so many connections that need help.
KG: So what are your career plans now? Because unfortunately schools are not open and they will not be open probably until the next academic school.
SR: Yeah. So I mean, definitely tutoring. Kind of just waiting it out to see where we go from here. I might do a TEFL program, which was another one of my options.
KG: What is the TEFL program?
SR: You can teach English abroad. They’re doing online courses now, so you can teach online overseas. I am interested in doing that to get me more experience instead of waiting for schools to open back up.
KG: That is a great opportunity, especially since it is all remote and online learning. That way you don’t have to worry about traveling or daily transportation anywhere.
SR: Exactly, exactly. And especially since schools aren’t open right now, it’s a very good opportunity to get a feel of a classroom.
KG: You seem to have kept a positive mindset even though your previous plans completely went down the drain. You now have a new plan A, B & C. How do you think you have been able to keep such a positive mindset and really focus while creating new goals during this pandemic?
SR: I mean, being quarantined, you really have no choice, but to rethink your future and start planning. Once COVID began and I knew we were going to be in quarantine for a while, I got to thinking, okay, so my entire life is going to be put on pause right now because I’m a teacher and there are no classrooms open. It’s going to be really hard. Especially when you’re brand new and you’re trying to get your foot in the door.
SR: So, I recently began doing all sorts of new research on education, seeing who needs help, and where they need help. I have researched how I can teach from home. I’m really trying to keep a positive mindset and see what I can do right now. Then once everything gets better and goes back to some type of normal, I will have already gained some experience.
KG: Do you like your new plan or do you wish you could still follow your old plan?
SR: My old plan was a solid plan. I had everything figured out and being thrown out of that plan and having to recreate a new one is hard.
KG: Of course
SR: I’m trying to find the positive in the new plan and am thinking- okay this could be better. A new type of learning experience for myself.
KG: So, I have one last question for you. What is something new you’ve learned in these last few months regarding your career path and goals? And, do you want to continue working in the education system? Even though it will be different for the foreseeable future.
SR: I definitely have hope that the education system will grow and change during all of this. Over the last four months, kids have not had to take standardized tests or SATs- those tests are known to cause so many unnecessary problems for students. So I think the education system will provide better opportunities after COVID and there won’t be as much pressure on students. Maybe we can completely rework the education system. I hope that everything will come out positively for everyone at the end of all this.
KG: Yeah, hopefully. Thank you so much for your time today, Sierra. I really appreciate it. Congratulations again on graduating!
SR: Thank you.