Dunkirk Native Publishes Book For New Teachers

BEMUS POINT — Jeff Julian said it is a perfect time to enter the teaching profession.

According to recent data from New York State United Teachers, a state-wide union with nearly 300,000 members, New York state will experience a teacher shortage in the near future, and many parts of the state have already experienced this shortage.

Reasons for the shortage range from retirements to increases in Pre-K through grade 12 enrollment, and fewer individuals are entering the teaching profession than ever before. Julian, a Dunkirk native, has recently published a book, “Classroom Advice for New Teachers: a Proactive Approach for Meeting the Daily Challenges of the Profession” that guides new and prospective teachers at the start of their career.

Julian, a social studies teacher at Maple Grove Junior-Senior High School, offers new teachers practical advice based on his 32 years of teaching experience. The book that offers new teachers a proactive approach to many aspects of the profession, from deciding to become a teacher, to applying, interviewing, setting up a classroom, designing curriculum and interacting with students and colleagues, all the way to avoiding “late-career burnout.”

The book idea came to him when he was speaking to a group of college students at his alma mater, SUNY Fredonia, where he earned his bachelor’s degree and dual certification in grades 7-12 English and history, and his master’s degree in English in 1991. “I noticed how eager they were to hear advice about the daily challenges of teaching, as well as to hear a positive, optimistic view of the profession,” Julian said. “I began writing the book about five years ago, and based it on my experiences and my own philosophy. My son Brian, who teaches high school science, encouraged me to keep writing and to search for a publisher, and I dedicated the book to him.”

After Julian completed several chapters of the book, he researched how to write a non-fiction book proposal to gain the interest of a reputable publisher or agent.

Uninterested in self publishing or “vanity publishers,” Julian wrote a detailed proposal, which included market research to support his case for why his book should be published. “When Rowman & Littlefield, a prestigious publisher of college textbooks and professional books, indicated an interest in my idea, I couldn’t believe my good fortune.”

The company soon offered Julian a contract and gave him a deadline to complete his book, which involved many revisions. Neither a textbook nor a teacher’s autobiography, his book is the balance of practical advice and real-life scenarios that can leave new teachers in a quandary.

Chapter topics include “How to Conduct Your Job Search,” “You won a Teaching Position! Now What?”, “How to Start the School Year,” “How to Overcome Favoritism,” “How to Utilize Instructional Technology,” “How to Handle Your Colleagues,” and “How to Handle Parents, the Community, and Public Relations,” among others.

Each chapter includes practical lessons and “in practice” scenarios, in which Julian presents readers with a scenario and multiple responses.

The scenarios are explained in detail, which were gleaned from Julian’s teaching experience. While a student at SUNY Fredonia, Julian completed his student teaching at Fredonia High School with Joseph Calarco, who continues to influence Julian’s teaching. After graduation, he taught English for two years at Ripley High School and then spent two years at Chautauqua High School as a social studies teacher. For the past 28 years, he has taught social studies at Maple Grove, where he has also served as social studies department chairman for the past 27 years. Julian has also been teaching public speaking in the evening at Jamestown Community College’s north county campus for the past five years.

While some enter the profession based on a childhood dream of becoming a teacher, Julian was inspired by one of his professors at SUNY Fredonia. “The thrill of leading an exchange of ideas, combined with the encouragement of my professor, Dr. Joseph Gallagher, convinced me to change my major from Engineering to History and English Education.”

Julian was further inspired by his grandmother, Adele Kuzara, who had great respect for the teaching profession and hoped to live to see her grandson reach his goal — which he did, with 22 years to spare.

“When I entered the profession, my hope was to spend my days discussing complex historical issues and high-level literature,” Julian recalled.

For Julian, creating a bond is his ultimate goal in every class, with every student. “The impression you make on your students by handling adversity with strength, treating others with empathy and respect, and generally conducting your life with integrity, will remain with them forever,” he said.

One of the challenges Julian encountered in writing the book, was continually putting himself in the mindset of a brand new teacher. His advice does not paint a perfect picture of the profession, but it is encouraging. “I tell new teachers what I wish someone had told me: Everything is going to be all right,” he explained. “You’re going to make mistakes and have errors in judgment, and sometimes those actions might cause problems for others. It’s important to maintain humility, admit your mistakes, do your best to make restitution, and learn from the experience.”

Julian is no stranger to criticism. “Like any other issue, it’s important to view it from every perspective,” he pointed out. “Some of those detractors have had difficult encounters with teachers, and also might be having negative experiences with their own career choices … My suggestion is to show sincere gratitude and humility: gratitude for the advantages of the profession, and humility for the honor of playing such an important role in the lives of your students.”

As Julian nears the end of his career, he is looking forward to speaking to new and prospective teachers, and he hopes his book will encourage them on their journey. Julian is grateful for all who have supported him in his career. For more information about Julian and his book, visit his website at jeffjulianauthor.gq.

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