Jessica McKinnie, MST ’15, Childhood and Childhood Special Education

Education coursework and practice at Pace has helped Jessica McKinnie, a master’s candidate in the MST Childhood and Childhood Special Education program, express her creativity and think outside the box.

“I have come to see myself as very creative when it comes to how I (want to) instruct my students,” the New York City native says. “I have learned that when I actually take chances and get really creative, I can come up with great stuff.  I want my students to have that same creativity and not be afraid to take risks because you just never know what they can come up with.”

This creativity was evident in a video project for professor Kathryn DeLawter’s Human Development in the School Context course (ED 630): “Outside the Four Walls: Using New York City as your Classroom to Enhance Multicultural Understanding.”

“Why bring the culture inside when there is so much culture outside in NYC to learn and actually experience?” she says of the impetus for the idea. “Once I started telling people about it, they really liked the idea, so that really pushed me to do the video.”

McKinnie’s video explores various cultural sites and locations throughout New York City, including El Museo del Barrio, the Museum of the Chinese in the Americas, and includes informative sidebars about food and other sites all around New York.

McKinnie holds a bachelor’s degree in English. She tried working in journalism and advertising, but didn’t find her niche until she decided to work with younger children.

“I’ve loved it ever since,” she says.

When McKinnie considered graduate schools, she looked for programs specifically geared toward the needs of career changers, positive experiences from alumni and the actual program courses.  “I’ve had outstanding professors who have been able to pass down their expertise to prepare the next generation of teachers. I like how they really are preparing us to teach the next generation of children and to really get us to think about what and how we are teaching,” she says.

McKinnie believes courses like Dr. DeLawter’s will help enormously when she’s in the classroom. “We’re going to teach kids who may not be on grade level, and some who are exceeding above grade level. However, every kid develops differently and that’s what we have to keep in mind, “ she says.

Pace has allowed McKinnie to think very deliberately and consciously about what kind of teacher she wants to be. “I have come to see myself as an educator who would definitely try to integrate as many of the arts as I can when it comes to teaching my students. It’s who I am and I think it really helps students who just have different ways of learning,” she says of her evolving teaching philosophy.

She also believes that the classroom offers an opportunity for the teacher to be a student. “A lot of times, kids open up our world and introduce new and amazing things that we would never have thought about,” she says.  “We’re teaching the next engineers and CEOs and never even know it. I think that’s one of the greatest opportunities we can have.”