Marissa Antonucci: A Student Teacher’s Take on Serving the Underserved

If you can read this, thank a teacher.

How many times have we smiled at that quote?

This is a great week to be grateful for those classroom champions as American Education Week is celebrated November 18-22.

Nyack School of Education teacher candidates are educated to be more than advocates for literacy. Their goal is literally to be salt and light. The dean, Dr. JoAnn Looney, frequently hears expressions of gratitude from her students and alumni who find their Nyack preparation invaluable as they serve in public and private education. Some of them like Marissa Antonucci serve the marginalized and underserved.

Marissa is currently completing her last semester student teaching in her home state of Massachusetts in the classroom with second and fifth graders. A two-month internship this past summer also gave her a unique experience of working with Envision Atlanta in Clarkston, GA where refugees have settled. For a reported 60,000 of these men, women and children, Clarkston is their first home in the United States.

“It was such a joy to meet, get to know, and share the love of Christ with so many refugees and be built up by the Envision staff and fellow interns. God truly blessed my time in Clarkston abundantly and I have learned so much. The greatest joy for me during the summer was building relationships with the kids of Parc 1000, the apartment complex I lived in with two roommates. Through camp, art and music classes, Bible study, VBS, and simply bringing out chalk, books, and soccer balls to play with, I was able to pour into the lives of kids who have been given very little in life. Most of the kids from Parc 1000 are from African countries such as Congo, Sudan, and Tanzania, and come from large, low-income families struggling to keep up with a traumatic past and the enormous adjustment to life in the U.S. As a result, almost all of these children have experienced a degree of neglect and trauma. The devastating effect of the trauma on these children’s brains is more than evident in their often angry, clingy and withdrawn behavior,” Marissa shares.

“With Envision Atlanta, we talk a great deal about how to approach traumatized children and how to help them heal through loving encounters and building trusting relationships,” she continued. “For me, these relationships with the kids of Parc 1000 were absolutely priceless to me and I pray that not only would our presence in their lives help them heal from their traumatic wounds but also point them towards the Great Healer, Jesus Christ.”

“Besides showing love to the kids, the second greatest blessing of this summer was meeting, helping and witnessing to Afghans. Through English class, prayer walking, and Afghan Kids Camp, I was able to meet several Afghan families and consistently visit with them.”

As an enthusiastic educator with a sincere love for the field of education, Marissa is eager to give credit to those who taught her.

“As I take a new step forward, I look back at Nyack as a community that played an instrumental role in developing my love for the Lord, my love for education, and my love for others. It was my education professors who modeled and taught us what good, high-quality education looks like while at the same time demonstrating how a teacher can show love and care to every student. More than anything, I felt invested in by so many individuals at Nyack. In every area I was involved in–the Honors Program, the Writing Center, Residence life, the Education Department–I felt deeply touched by Christ’s love and given opportunities to grow, think, and change. Because so many leaders at Nyack poured into me, I feel prepared to pour into the lives of my future students. By loving me, Nyack has taught me how to love others.”

“Student teaching is challenging, but I am becoming more prepared and more excited every day to become a teacher in my own classroom. After I graduate in December, I am still hoping to move back to Clarkston to teach in the public schools and be a light and a hope to the refugee kids I have met and loved so much.”

No doubt there will be many literate and deeply loved students who will thank Marissa Antonucci.