Staff Spotlight: Natalie O’Neil
GSE Faculty Member Encourages Students to Embrace a Virtual Learning Environment
Natalie O’Neil is an adjunct professor at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. She was awarded the Part-Time Lecturer Professional Development Fund Award. Ms. O’Neil received her bachelor’s degree from Rutgers University in English and then enrolled in the five-year accelerated Masters in Education program at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. She later received her M.Ed from the GSE in 2005. After graduating, she became a high school teacher and received a second Master’s degree in liberal studies from Ramapo College. Ms. O’Neil, a fellow of the National Writing Project at Rutgers, realized that integrating technology provided a way to support her less engaged students while also preparing them for opportunities in future careers. Ms. O’Neil, a Certified Google Innovator and Trainer and Certified Raspberry Pi Educator, also obtained certifications in School Administration, Supervision, and Educational Leadership. She has been teaching at the GSE for 5 years and also works full-time at the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA) as a Professional Development Specialist managing NKBA Affiliated Schools and Publications, serving educators and student members all over North America.
Ms. O’Neil teaches Education and Computers at the GSE in the Department of Learning and Teaching. “I love that my course fulfills a school of arts and sciences requirement, allowing me to facilitate educational best practice and technology integration for any discipline,” stated Ms. O’Neil. All the sections she teaches are asynchronous, and are taught fully online. Ms. O’Neil was already modeling virtual instruction in her earlier years of teaching, and has worked to prepare her students for a tech-driven world. She feels honored to have been an early adopter of virtual learning and teaching, and she feels that her students are prepared for a virtual world. “I wanted to find the connection between technology and the humanities and bring that into my teaching practice. I wanted to find that spark for every individual student,” said Ms. O’Neil. Her goal is to facilitate practical learning and to empower students while doing so. One of her course assignments includes students building a professional portfolio. Ms. O’Neil incorporates a digital portfolio as an assignment because she wants to make sure that her students can navigate the virtual landscape, and stand out as professional candidates. A virtual proposal provides an opportunity to demonstrate their skills digitally, while guiding prospective employers through their resume in a more engaging and thorough process. This design thinking approach is one that Ms. O’Neil has used successfully throughout her career, and she hopes to support students through a similar process.
She is very excited about being awarded the Part-Time Lecturer Professional Development Fund award. “I’m honored to receive this award, knowing that design thinking concepts and leveraging technology have become mainstream within teaching pedagogy. It demonstrates the value in continued learning and not being afraid to take risks and try something new. By receiving the grant, I feel supported, and with that support, I am able to better support others. An educator’s success relies on her willingness to continually learn. I know that GSE continues to build a network of support within its best practice,” stated Ms. O’Neil. By being able to continue her own learning and apply that to her teaching, she can give that back to the colleagues, educators, and students she works with.
In her personal time, Ms. O’Neil is a yoga instructor employing the practice of self-improvement and self-worth into her career. She employs a humanistic teaching approach, seeing students as individuals, and meeting them where they are, and assisting them with their own form of progress. For example, she takes the time to ask questions, to listen to her students’ needs, and differentiate her instruction based on their specific needs. She also believes in breathing through the struggle and seeing things work out, as she sees the greatest progress made while facing those struggles head on. Ms. O’Neil also enjoys gardening and she relates gardening to her style of teaching. “I put much time, effort, and care into my plants as they grow because I know they will transform into something wonderful; I do the same thing with my students, knowing their potential will far surpass my expectations, if I only I provide them the space and support they need to thrive,” stated Ms. O’Neil.