An Interview with Junior High School Educator, Ryan Bonicky

by Doug Schmitt
An Interview with Junior High School Educator, Ryan Bonicky

Each year, thousands of individuals embark on the journey to a career as an educator. Seeking to make a difference in the lives of young people, aspiring educators diligently and passionately craft their own methods and techniques for reaching out to students as their own learning process continues on a daily basis.

As science and technology continue to evolve, educators must learn to adapt to these conditions. Dedicated junior high school science instructor Ryan Bonicky of Pittsburgh, PA proves to be an excellent example of an educator that continues to learn new techniques in an effort to incorporate technology into curriculum.

In addition to utilizing technology as an educational tool, Bonicky, also a parent, believes that educators need to be passionate about educating young people and emphasizes that his "chief goal as an educator is to promote student achievement." He provides this insight and other additional perspective in the following interview.


Where did you go to college and what was your major? Did you anticipate becoming an educator?

I attended the Community College of Allegheny County and fulfilled my general studies requirements. After that, I transferred to La Roche College, where I obtained my B.A. in Elementary Education. After I had my Bachelor's Degree, I decided to get my Master's Degree. I attended Duquesne University and obtained a M.S. in Instructional Technology.

I definitely anticipated that I was going to become a teacher prior to attending college. In contrast, I truly didn't think about my post high school years until my daughter Alayna was born. Her birth truly made me recognize what I wanted to do with my life.

Where and how did your career start?

During my college career, I had several practicum experiences at Saint Bonaventure School. I was impressed with the learning environment and the entire faculty was quite welcoming. I decided to apply for a teaching position immediately after graduating. I was offered a fulltime Jr. High teaching position (science) and accepted the job two months after I graduated.

My first preference was to teach in the public school system because of the higher salary that was offered, but I was only offered a substitute position. I wanted to acquire experience and I took the position at St. Bonaventure. I love what I do at the school. Since that time, I have become heavily involved with SBS over the years that have passed and I know that I am making a difference in the lives of my students.

What do you most enjoy about being an educator?

I honestly enjoy every moment of teaching and I strongly feel it is one of the most vital professions in our society. First and foremost, I enjoy the fact that I am making a positive difference in our society. Second, I get to have fun at the same time.

I have an outstanding rapport with my students and it's very easy for me to instruct them because of this reason… I literally look forward to seeing and instructing my students each day. I established my rapport with my students by simply being myself. My chief goal as an educator is to promote student achievement, but I believe my age, personality and humor contribute to my relationship. I'm extremely devoted to the profession and my students are aware & appreciative of this.

It's difficult to give tips to a fellow teacher, because everyone has their own technique and comfort level. However, I recommend being yourself and enjoying what you do. Teachers can take care of business and have fun at the same time.

Do you feel that is important for someone to be passionate about being an educator in order to be successful?

Absolutely! I believe anyone that is passionate about their job will succeed more, especially in education. Students are intuitive; they can sense an instructor that isn't sincere. For this reason, it is vital that they have a passionate educator. It helps promote a love for learning and can mold the students into life-long learners.

What exactly do you do? What are your key responsibilities?

As far as my "key" responsibilities go, I teach physical and life sciences, creative writing, 7th grade English, Pittsburgh History, health, and since we're a private institution, religion.

Aside from teaching I'm the faculty advisor of the Student Council, and I participate with intramurals. Other tasks include bullying prevention, the yearbook team, and All School Projects.

In addition to these items, I'm a member of the SAP (student assistance program) team. As a member, my role is to be a source of intervention for teachers who are dealing with children that have academic or behavioral troubles. In other words, I supply advice and strategies to teachers.

Is it important to collaborate with your colleagues? How have professional collaborations benefited your career?

It is very crucial to be able to collaborate with colleagues, although it can be challenging at times. At the same time, it can also make one's job easier. Collaborating with fellow teachers requires both parties to be open-minded; flexible and receptive to new ideas & techniques.

At my school, I collaborate with the other Jr. High teachers to create various lesson plans together. I also "team teach" a localized cultural course that we developed, Pittsburgh History, with the vice principal. Doing this really sets a standard and rings true to the saying, "two heads are better than one"!

What is the most stressful aspect of your career? The most rewarding?

The most stressful aspect of my career: When students don't live up to my expectations a.k.a. do as well as they could. I try to be as positive as possible and constantly serve as a motivator. I employ other strategies as well including conferring with the student, their parent(s) and the principal.

The most rewarding aspect of my career: When a student that struggles comprehends something instructed to them and as a result, it boosts their self-esteem. For example, science and math go hand in hand and often, some of my students get frustrated when I incorporate math. They will literally convince themselves that they can't do it.

On several occasions, I stressed how easy the matter was, and showed the students step by step the procedure for deciphering problems. Initially, they didn't do so well, but I worked with them one-on-one until they were able to understand the concept and their phobia of math in science diminished.

How is the job market now in the industry? How do you think it will be in 5 years?

It's difficult to obtain a teaching position in Pennsylvania because schools in the state pay a significantly higher salary in comparison to other states. In addition, there are a wealth of schools that offer education as a major.

Education is something that will always be needed. As time goes on, technologies and theories change. Science advances and stumbles upon new things everyday. I don't see any less of a demand for educators in the future.

What are the hottest specialties in education currently, and what do you think will be next?

Special education and instructional technology are the future. There is a wealth of information on the Internet...ways that technology can be infused in a classroom to promote student achievement. The multi-media aspects of technology help obtain the students interest because it makes them active participants of the lessons. This is called the multi-modal approach.

As well, students can participate in activities that they typically couldn't. For example, I had my students do an interactive frog dissection using a computer program. I also had my students discover info about the heart on the web and they actually participated in an interactive heart surgery. The educational possibilities are limitless.

Is there anything else you can tell us about yourself, your career, or education that would be interesting or helpful to others aspiring to enter and succeed in education?

Start networking! I feel that in almost any profession, it's about being at the right place at the right time or the old saying "it's not who you are, it's who you know". More often than not, you can obtain an interview just by being referred by someone.

School districts receive thousands of applications each year. They need some type of way of narrowing down the applicants. First they post the job "in-house" and then they post it to the public. You have a better chance of being interviewed if you know other educators.

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