Danette is a Second Grade Teacher at Coney Island Prep. She has worked in the Americorps, as a counselor in Stony Brook University’s Career Center, and as an afterschool program counselor for children of various ages.
Company: Coney Island Prep Elementary School
Degree Type: Bachelor of Science in Psychology
What’s your 30-60 second elevator pitch?
Hi! My name is Danette Mckellar. I am in my 2nd year of teaching as a Second Grade Teacher in a public charter school. Before becoming a teacher, I dedicated 2 years working within an education nonprofit, City Year, where I utilized my passion for social emotional development to build bonds and support growth in youth. From the moment I saw how my impact helped an 8th grader improve her math grade from a 35 to an 80 and began to advocate for herself, I knew I needed to continue this work in education. Currently, I am pursuing a dual certification in Teaching and Special Education with plans to pursue a Masters in Social Work. They say teaching creates all other professions. Well, I intend to play a role in my students being prepared for whatever profession they choose.
Did you consider any other careers as a student? If yes, which ones? What changed your mind?
I had considered going into social work, which is still what I intend to do. For now, I will complete my graduate work in teaching to strengthen my current skills. When I pursue my MSW, I can strengthen these skills even further and deepen the impact I have on youth.
Who or what experience influenced your career growth the most while at SBU?
I would say the Career Center and the people I met there. Becoming a career counselor in my last year provided me with more perspective in what route I wanted to take. I never considered teaching as a career decision, but I knew I wanted to work closely with youth. Amie Vedral and Nikki Barnett provided me support and resources to help me figure out my next steps, which led to my decision to apply to City Year. After dedicating 2 years to City Year, I decided to pursue the field of education. My time as a Career Counseling Intern also provided a greater self-awareness into my own capabilities and habits.
What do you wish you had known as a student?
“When in doubt, try it out.” This phrase comes to mind because I always had ideas of what I wanted to do and what I thought I would not like. Even though I had a mental lists of things, I was not always 100% sure. However, I eventually listened to the feedback I received from the Career Center and to my own fears to take a risk. This risk led to a greater awareness of what I wanted to do and could actually do. For example, I never saw myself becoming a teacher. I did not think I had the patience for the responsibility, workload and student behaviors that came with the profession. However, my risk of applying to serve as a Corps member with City Year provided clarity for me. Sometimes, I wonder where I could have been if I took more risks during my entire college career.
What piece of advice would you offer students looking to get into your area of interest and expertise?
I would tell students to gain experience in education, whether it is student teaching or getting involved with organizations like City Year. The experience will help you decide if this is the field you truly want and help you decide what you are looking for within the field (i.e. teaching vs leadership, public vs charter vs private, elementary school vs middle school vs high school, highly structured vs teacher autonomy). Every school is different and every student is different. Experience will help you become aware of what you want in a school or job within education. It will also help you see what type of educator you are and/or want to be.