Collier County

Student Spotlight: Nicholas Cummons

Nick Cummons, well-known around campus for being the Jesus-loving skater dude from Ohio, has a bright future ahead of him. He is a senior, graduating in May with a degree in Economics and a minor in Business Administration. Nick recently accepted a job offer from Collier County Public Schools as a substitute teacher and will continue to spread his infectious joy to the kids of Immokalee through his service. He and his fiancée, Hailey McNeely, plan on staying close to Ave after graduation.

Why did you choose the career for which you are preparing?

I initially spoke to Hailey about this when she was a Theology major because she has such a charism for teaching and working with children. I told her that if she wanted to change the world and change the way people live their lives, she should be teacher. I always kind of wanted to be one, but I never gave it much thought because I was an Econ major and I just assumed that was where my life was headed. Not too long after I spoke to Hailey, I read a Career Services blog about Collier County Public Schools, and it was at that time that I was talking to Zach and trying to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. Being a teacher worked its way to the top of my list of possible job opportunities and we agreed that I should try to pursue a career in teaching. I learned that CCPS had a desire to hire more Ave students because of their outstanding work ethic, so I got a trial run with them and essentially got a job as a substitute teacher to try to see if this is really want I want to do. I guess I chose trial by fire.

What does a typical day at CCPS look like for you?

Well, the day of a substitute is always interesting. Each day is a new class and a fresh start, which can be a good thing or a bad thing. I have actually taken a job for the next month with the same class every other day (and college classes on my other days). That will be my first time being able to build longer standing relationships with the students and the school staff. Up until now, I have been going to different elementary schools in Immokalee as well as the middle school almost every day. After signing in at the office and asking a billion questions about the brand new school that I've never been to (which has been the case almost every time so far) and receiving my lesson plans for the day that the teacher has left me for their class, I usually scramble for the next 30 minutes preparing to deliver the lesson that the teacher intended all while trying to learn the routines of the classroom and the school. After my scrambling time, I pick up the students in my homeroom from wherever in that school that they meet in the morning and then go about class as normal (usually with a million questions about who I am, since I'm still a new face), or at least as normally as it can go with a substitute. I facilitate the classroom activities as best as I can, from interactive computer programs on the whiteboard to simple math worksheets, social studies readings and discussions, and homework reviews. At some point, I drop the students off at lunch and during this time I get to eat lunch, catch my breath, and ask the other teachers for advice, tips, and help. It's pretty straightforward, except for the part where it could be an entirely new set of faces in front of me everyday with an entirely new lesson plan/classroom structure. It’s awesome and crazy.

What is the best part of working for Collier County Public Schools?

First of all, when I was welcomed aboard at CCPS as a guest teacher, I felt right at home in the schools I started going to. The staff members at each school were welcoming, supportive, professional, encouraging, and very helpful. CCPS has an incredible amount of resources for their employees to continue learning and become the best educators that they can be. I really like the amount of support that the school district gives to all of their teachers and guest teachers. Additionally, the kids have been so wonderful to serve and work with. There hasn't been a day when I haven't come back from teaching with a big smile on my face telling Hailey all about the funny stories and crazy things that happened that day. It truly has been a joy to be a part of CCPS. 

Where do you see yourself in five years?

Probably still around here in the Naples area. I initially I started going to the Immokalee schools for substitute teaching, as well as for FIAT and some other after school programs, and I fell in love with the people I met over there. I’d really like to stay around here for the first couple of years after we graduate to give back to the community.

What motivates you to put forth your greatest effort?

First and foremost, my faith, because it gives me the motivation to be the best I can be, which is who God designed me to be. This motivation manifests itself as the desire to serve others. It’s for Hailey, who's going to be my wife, and also for the people I work with and the people I love.

What is the best compliment you have ever received? 

*Laughing* That I have nice hair.

No, but in all seriousness, my football coach and my dad gave me the best compliment when they described me as a servant leader. I know I don't stand out, but I am a hard worker with perseverance. That’s really important to me.

How have your dreams and goals changed throughout your life?

Oh man, they’ve changed a lot. I know when I first graduated high school I was determined to be either a rockstar or a guitar technician. The first year out of high school, I never thought I would spend time doing missionary work, but when I ended up serving for NET Ministries, it was two weeks before I left for Franciscan, I already had my classes and my roommate set up and I left that all behind. After I finished working for NET, my dad convinced me to go to college, but I didn't see myself getting a four year degree. As I progressed through my time here at Ave, a whole world of opportunities opened up.

What do you think older generations misunderstand about yours?

They probably fit all of us into a category that doesn't believe in traditional values. I wish they would realize that some of us really do have strong family values and lives rooted in faith.

Describe your most rewarding college experience?

Dr. Sugrue’s American Civilization class. She was just so challenging and I don't think I have ever worked harder for an A- in my life. It was so rewarding to see my final grade that semester.

In what kind of work environment are you most comfortable?

Definitely one where everyone works together toward a common goal. We might not all be doing the same thing, but having that unity and structure and camaraderie is where I find myself to be the most comfortable. 

Which do you think you have the most of: talent, intelligence, education, or persistence? How has it helped you in your life? 

Persistence, for sure. I’m not always really good at something when I start it, but that has allowed me to do things that I naturally wouldn't be able to do. Especially with teaching, my persistence helped me to find my way in and get the substitute teaching job. It has helped me to do well in school if i keep trying, and succeed in ways that I never knew I could. 

 

Employer Profile: Collier County Public School

It is no secret that Ave Maria students and graduates embrace the teaching profession in droves. Perhaps it is because of their high intelligence and love of learning, and perhaps it is due to the strong model we have been given through our professors. In either case, any student who is considering a job in teaching should look closely at a wonderful opportunity right outside our door: Collier County Public Schools.

We had a recent conversation with Susan Miller, Coordinator of Staffing and Recruiting for CCPS. According to Susan, Collier County Public Schools shows a particular interest in Ave students because of their proximity and closeness to the Collier community.

“We want to see our community flourish,” she says. “Since Ave students live locally throughout the school year, they are able to understand our community and our students’ needs.” Unsurprisingly, our proximity and involvement in the community makes Ave students well-equipped to teach at local schools.

Susan also recognizes the importance of good character in the teaching profession, and that Ave provides an education that leads to well-rounded individuals and professionals. “CCPS is looking for employees who are motivated and willing to learn,” she says, “who set goals for themselves and look to build on their previous accomplishments, and who will display commitment to their work and their students. I think Ave Maria has a lot of students who fit that criteria.”

In short, CCPS is a great fit for Ave students because of their emphasis on character and development.

The high number of job openings also serves as a plus. Last year they hired over 300 new teachers, and every January they usually hire another 40 to 50 new teachers as well. On top of that, there is usually at lot of turnover. Both in Collier County and on a national scale, teachers will often switch schools and look for new opportunities after 2 to 3 years.  

As a result, CCPS offers a wide variety of training and mentoring during an employee’s first few years on staff. New teachers will receive a mentor, a newsletter with various events they are encouraged to attend, and new teachers are given a survey so that CCPS can better help them on the road to success.

After three years of teaching, teachers can go through clinical training to become mentors to university students, and after five years, teachers have the opportunity to go through training to become a curriculum coach to other teachers, which can potentially lead to a position in administration. In Susan’s words, “We really put in a lot of effort because we want our teachers to stay with us.”

CCPS makes it clear that they are not just interested in education majors. Anyone who has pursued specialized studies (in any major!) are welcome to apply and teach, and CCPS will assist them in the process of applying for the required state teaching requirements.

When asked if she had any tips for those interested in applying to CCPS, Susan emphasized the importance of volunteering so as to experience the environment of the classroom and the county school system. She recommends interning at a Collier County school in order to learn what’s expected of their teachers. Interns have the added benefit of being placed at the top of the application pool for post-graduate positions.

Susan also mentioned that volunteering leads to connections with people “on the inside” who work at other schools and can be helpful to candidates as they apply. “There’s really no need to apply without making a prior connection,” she says.

There are lots of ways that CCPS makes it both attractive and easy to apply for teaching positions. CCPS is willing to provide mock interview sessions for students, which allow students the chance to practice questions and answers with staff before the interview.  They are willing to come on-campus to help applicants get their paperwork started, or speak about Collier County’s code of Ethics. “Everyone should know the expectations in the beginning,” Susan explains, “rather than making mistakes and being corrected.”

The goal of CCPS is to encourage students to consider the teaching profession from an early age, and to take the right steps to secure their place in Collier County’s education system. CCPS is a great fit for any Ave Maria student considering teaching.

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CCPS will be visiting campus on Wednesday, October 26th at 5:00 PM in the Ballroom to provide more information on their opportunities and answer questions. Thanks to Susan Miller for conducting this interview! We’re glad to be partnering with CCPS.

For more information, see the CCPS website: http://www.collierschools.com/