For the past two and a half years, I have and continue to serve a dual role at a small private school as a special needs teacher and behavior therapist for students with severe autism among other medical conditions.
While the teaching component is a clear parallel to my time as a GTA with the English Department, I am working in a new field, Applied Behavior Analysis, in which everything is research-based and founded in hard science. As other graduate students have already touched upon, the skills I learned in the undergraduate and graduate programs at Kansas State — close reading, synthesis, and analysis of large amounts of information and data; questioning, research, and discussion — all help me in a new field I had no previous experience.
Knowing my audience is key. I am able to talk to parents in a way that they are able to receive difficult information about their children (e.g., a child’s maladaptive behaviors during the day, a child not being diploma-bound, a child needing additional supports, etc.). This is especially important when parents want to see their kid have a certain path in life, but we have to show them that said path might not be feasible. Being able to read an audience and change language based on sensitive information is absolutely a skill I learned while being in the English program.
Prior to my time as a special needs teacher and behavior therapist (2013-2016), I worked as Curriculum Coordinator for the Center for Intercultural and Multilingual Advocacy (CIMA), which is part of K-State’s College of Education. This was my job right out of grad school. In my role, I was fortunate enough to be part of the Go Teacher program, which served multiple cohorts of Ecuadorian teachers who received language and cultural experiences while learning best practices to teach students English as foreign language in their home schools. Not only did I serve as an instructor for these students, I worked to create, develop, and maintain curriculum used in the College of Education and at our language institute at Yachay Tech in the highlands region of Ecuador. Along with other staff and faculty members, I helped edit two textbooks, write quantitative and qualitative reports, create newsletters, write and edit grant proposals, and design a variety of other presentations to help meet the needs of CIMA. Without the invaluable skills I learned while in K-State’s English department, I absolutely would not have been prepared for my time at CIMA, especially with the level of teaching, writing/editing, and administrative tasks that were expected.
I hope current Kansas State English students see the value in the transferable skills learned while in the department. An English degree is absolutely useful, and many companies see those skills as way more important than the actual field itself. The tricky part is demonstrating those competencies to potential employers and showing them that you would be an added value to their team. But as an English major, we are equipped to show those transferable skills through our writing, speaking, and organizational skills — all which are fostered by the wonderful staff and faculty of the Kansas State English department.
— Melissa Prescott (BA ’11, MA ’13)