Tom Rooney

Featured Alumni Profiles

Tom Rooney

BS, English Education


I’m teaching English to freshmen and sophomores back at my old high school in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn. When I was a student there, I floated through the halls like a ghost, dodging teachers and preferring not to participate, much like Bartelby from Melville’s short story.

Now that I’m a teacher, I strive to get students involved. I work with them one-on-one and encourage collaboration through the workshop model, an approach that gets them to own the material they’re studying. For example, if my lecture for the day covered the basic themes in Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, it will be followed by small group discussions that focus on one specific theme. Then each group presents their findings to the class, which effectively puts them in the position of teachers. They quickly discover that in order to teach well, they have to understand the material; they have to master their subject.

I learned this lesson as an undergraduate, through fieldwork experiences with the East Side Community School and the Upward Bound program. By graduation, I had already spent hundreds of hours teaching English and felt ready to instruct full time. Hopefully, I’ll impart this confidence to my students, inspiring them to become masters of their own lives.