Alumni Spotlight: Aaron Sartorio C’18, Special Ed English Teacher at Columbia High School

Aaron Sartorio C’18 loved that he was able to major in English, Theatre Arts and Education at Drew.  He knew he could grow here as a person. He was actively involved in the Theatre Department, worked as a Resident Assistant and had excellent internships with the Mayo Performing Arts Center, Arts by the People, and the Greater Ocean City Theater Co.

Within the Theatre Department one of his mentors was Dr. Lisa Brenner.  Aaron said, “She was very supportive with all of us.”  Also, another mentor was Robbie Armstrong, Hall Director in Student Engagement, who was very helpful outside of the Theatre Department.

After graduating he worked as a Stage Management Apprentice/Intern at the Titusville Theatre for a year before going back to Drew to pursue his Master of Arts in Teaching. He loved theatre but knew he was most fulfilled when he was helping others.

He is a Special Ed English Teacher at Columbia High School in Maplewood, NJ. This is also where he did his student teaching.

What did you learn at Drew as an undergrad and in the M.A.T. program that has helped you in your current role as a Special Ed English Teacher?

The biggest things I learned from Drew and Resident Life is that you have to be adaptable including where tech is concerned. Be adaptable in every area of your life.

What do you think makes a great teacher and what are your strengths as a teacher?

A great teacher is someone who genuinely cares about the subject and their students and who considers their students’ interests as part of their process of teaching. I believe in student-centered learning. I ask always ask myself, how can I make whatever I am teaching relevant and meaningful to my students?  This comes from knowing your students and from having discussions in the classroom. You should be able to give students material and if they do not understand it, you should go back and change it to make sure they understand it. You should be able to reflect on your own teaching model. My biggest strength as a teacher is my rapport with my students and my use of technology.  I am in the same school where I did my student teaching.  One of the reasons they wanted me back, and I wanted to come back, is that I built strong relationships with my students and I made teaching relevant. I also used technology to help them learn.

What excites you about education in general?

What excites me about education is that there is always something new to learn, and something deeper behind it.  Drew pushes you to look past the text and allows you the freedom to say, this doesn’t make sense and here’s why.

As a panelist for our Visible/Invisible Disabilities Panel could you talk a little about your disability and how it has impacted your life? 

I am partially paraplegic.  It’s a version of cerebral palsy. The right part of my body doesn’t work as well as my left.  There are certain physical things that I can’t do with my right hand. For instance, when I buy a new car, I have to make sure my right hand can move the handle properly.  Academically, I can’t write as fast as others so this is an issue with timed tests.  Also, walking around campus takes me longer.

How has your disability empowered you?

My mom always said I could do anything and not to ever think otherwise. I always want to try things and this helps me to succeed. This is why I have a natural drive within me and that has pushed me to be better.  I never take no for an answer.

What advice would you give a student who has an invisible or visible disability?

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  When I started at Drew I was struggling so I went to an academic coach to get help.  Also seek help with the Office of Accessibility.  They will help you transition to college and will help you get the assistance you need. You have an opportunity to reinvent yourself in college.  Don’t let your disability shape or define you.

Any fun facts you’d like to share?

I’ve become podcast person, especially crime podcasts like True Crime.

 

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