Ms. Rooney


Will Peng, Staff Writer

Before she became a teacher, Ms. Rooney initially wanted to become a lawyer. Part of the reason was because of an incident that had happened in her civics class. “We had a difficult exam, and he [the teacher] used my paper and another student’s to grade all the others, so that was certainly encouraging.” She worked in the legal field for around three to four years and took some paralegal classes. Then she discovered that law school is very dry.

However, her true dream as a child was to become a ballerina. But certain things had prevented her from becoming one. “My parents didn’t have money for dance lessons; I didn’t discover it until I was 17, and at that point, it’s too late to study the craft of dance.” Dancers need to start at a very young age, she said. She still loves dance to this day, but she had to face the fact that devoting her time to it would bring other consequences. “I […] had to come to terms with, ‘Yeah, I could devote my life to this, but would I be able to take care of myself?’”

Her interests don’t stop there. She chose to major in English even though she really loved horticulture and botany. In the end, she picked what she picked because, she explained, “I found that I got more A’s and B’s in literature classes, and I decided if I’m going to do something that exerts that much time and energy, then I wanted to excel, rather than in the science classes.” She mentioned that she was only two classes away from receiving a minor in botany.

Did her high school self expect to become a teacher? “I think I tried on the idea of being a bilingual teacher,” she said. Her mother saw her enjoying her English and Spanish classes, and she encouraged her to go in that direction. “But I also had my own ideas about things, and did a fair amount of exploration in the process.”

Before she became a teacher, Ms. Rooney worked several jobs in the corporate world. “I worked in public relations, so I would write press releases and interact with clients on technology accounts.” She brought up trade, marketing, and promotional events. “I worked in a couple of small advertising agencies writing ad copy.” She brought up more: brochures, presentations, websites. “When I worked for the airport,” she said, “it was during 9/11, so that was a pretty intense time, we designed all the maps for the airport.” She said that marketing requires excellent administrative and communication skills, including communication in all forms: presenting, writing, and speaking.

From there on is when she ended up as a teacher. “I got tired of the volatility of Silicon Valley. […] It seemed as though every time I turned around, they were letting someone go in marketing.”

With interests in law, dance, botany, English, foreign languages, and business, Ms. Rooney has a lot on her plate. She describes herself as a renaissance woman. “I am kind of a big-picture person. […] I like to explore a lot of different things, I get bored easily.” She claims to have a short attention span. This explains her motivation behind exploring multiple fields.

One of the things Ms. Rooney’s previous experiences has given her is a very strong work ethic. She also developed a “striving for excellence” attitude from many years ago. As for her writing skills, they’ve been a part of her ever since high school, and over the years she’s honed in on her skill. “There’s always been a creative component to me, which is where the dance came into play.” The writing, communication skills, and creativity all connect to help her in her teaching practice.

The freedom and responsibilities she gets as a teacher are what sets apart her job as a teacher from her previous jobs. “[You have] more freedom in different aspects of the job […] through the creation of your own curriculum,” she explained. She also explained the different roles she has as a teacher. “I’m a sociologist, a psychologist, a parent, a disciplinarian, and a teacher all in one.” She explained that you might also have a lot of roles in a marketing job, but the main priority is not the emotional, physical, and emotional welfare of a human being, whereas as a teacher it is. “That’s why we’re here,” she said, “we’re here for the students.”

As a teacher, Ms. Rooney looks up to her ballet teacher as an example. She didn’t just teach about dance, but also about life lessons, striving for excellence, and discipline. The most important lesson she learned from her was to strive for excellence in all that she does, along with incredible discipline. What being a teacher has taught Ms. Rooney is patience, compassion, attention to details (MLA!), and a goofy sense of humor.

If change were to happen to the current education system, she would enjoy seeing education being modeled more after how it is in Finland. “Finland’s teachers are put through a rigorous training, they receive a master’s, and they are paid professionals, similar to engineers and doctors, and they are respected and paid in the same way.”

Ms. Rooney considers most of the students at Irvington overachievers and would advise them to consider taking the time to travel and live in another country for some time. “Consider taking a gap year. Your parents will probably shoot me for this, but, you never realize more of who you are than when you live in another country for a sustained period of time […]. Really learn who you are and what you’re made of.

“Travel, I think, is something that has taught me a lot about what it means to be an American […] because we don’t understand what that fully means until we put ourselves into another place where people do things differently.

“And just realize if you don’t go to Harvard, you won’t be on the street with a sign that says ‘Need Food and Money.’”