GSOE student Kevin Bates will work this fall for Teach for America in Boston.
Photo by Jonathan Cohen
Commencement 2012 profile: Kevin BatesTweet
Kevin Bates, a student in the Graduate School of Education, always knew that he wanted to dedicate himself to making a positive impact on others. With such strong enthusiasm for helping people, it’s no surprise that he decided to pursue a career in teaching.
“I always had a passion to work with others and try to empower them somehow,” said the 24-year-old from Windsor, N.Y. “I found that I like working with students in particular because I think schools are a really positive environment to be in.”
When Bates assessed his future after completing his undergraduate degree at the College of Saint Rose, he soon decided that Binghamton University would be his next destination.
“When I came to visit I really liked the atmosphere, and especially the faculty. It just sort of clicked,” he said. “I decided on special education because students with disabilities were the kind of clientele I really wanted to work with. I think that they need a voice, and I want to be part of helping them find it.”
Bates came to Binghamton with a determination to make the most of his time, and resolved to take advantage of the University’s many opportunities for getting hands-on experience. His academic advisor, Assistant Professor Candace Mulcahy, immediately took note of his eagerness to broaden his horizons.
“At our first advising meeting, Kevin expressed a strong desire to move out of his comfort zone, to learn about and work with people whose lives are very different from his own,” said Mulcahy. “He demonstrated that commitment by taking on new and challenging experiences, proving that he’s motivated and eager to expand his knowledge in very applied ways.”
After his first semester of classes, Bates used his summer break to travel to areas of the world where he could observe educational systems and learning environments that were different from those seen in the United States. His first endeavor, a two-week trip to Honduras where he volunteered at a school for children with disabilities, had a particularly profound effect on him.
“It was a very eye-opening experience because it was a high-need, low-income area, which is very outside the norm for what you would usually see in our country,” he said. “I learned that even if you only have a chalkboard and nothing else, there are still ways that you can teach effectively.”
Bates’ second trip was to Ireland, where he toured the Irish/English education system and learned about their model for special education. Both of these experiences overseas helped him to form his personal views on education, and also allowed him to more fully appreciate the education system in the United States.
“They definitely opened my mind up to things that I like about the American education system, and maybe even some things I’d like to change,” he said. “I think that for the most part it kind of confirmed that I’m glad I’m going to be a teacher in the U.S.”
While Bates recognizes these experiences abroad for expanding his personal horizons, he credits his work during the remainder of the summer for expanding his professional views. After working for two months in a program for teenagers with either Asperger’s syndrome or high-functioning autism, Bates had no doubt that working with students who have disabilities was the right path for him.
“It was a unique experience to work with these kids in a non-academic setting,” he said. “It was very challenging at times, but it confirmed that professionally I’m exactly where I want to be.”
In addition to his extensive fieldwork, Bates considers the time he spent in the classroom at Binghamton to have been equally important in influencing his future as an educator. He credits Mulcahy and Assistant Professor Elizabeth Anderson specifically for helping to shape his teaching philosophies.
“Candace and Liz taught me the importance of treating each student as an individual, to go beyond what’s in your job description because you need to help the student above all else,” he said. “Especially working with students who have disabilities, you need to show the students that you care about them, and then after that you can engage them.”
Bates, who will start work for Teach for America in Boston this fall, believes his time at Binghamton provided him with a personalized education that was invaluable in preparing him to become a teacher.
“Binghamton was great because I was able to be very creative with everything here, instead of just going through a program that had been laid out for me,” he said. “I felt more like I was calling the shots, so I was able to grow into myself, and I’m definitely ready to take the next step now.”