August 14, 2022
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Commencement 2020 profile: Tyler Spellman

Recruited to play soccer, but education is his passion

Tyler Spellman has started a dual master's program in childhood education and special education. Tyler Spellman has started a dual master's program in childhood education and special education.
Tyler Spellman has started a dual master's program in childhood education and special education. Image Credit: Provided.

It would take more than a spinal injury that sidelined his Division I soccer career during his freshman year to stop Tyler Spellman from achieving his goals.

From Melville, Long Island, Spellman came to Binghamton to play goalie for the Bearcats men’s soccer team but had to take a medical withdrawal after his first season of play. He spent most of the second semester of his freshman year at home, recuperating. “I didn’t want to risk my life with what was going on. I just wanted to get better,” Spellman said. “So, I went through a ton of medical issues for months, doctors and more doctors, injections and procedures, the whole nine yards. It was pretty scary, but I came out stronger. It needed time.”

Never healthier than now, Spellman recalled not even wanting to consider Binghamton when he was being recruited to play soccer, but his parents urged him to visit. “The second I stepped on campus I knew right away, this is meant for me,” he said. “This is where I was supposed to be.”

And he solidified his calling while on campus. While healing he realized that education was what he had always enjoyed. “Throughout high school, I always worked with kids,” he said. “It is just my passion. I was a counselor, a teacher’s assistant over the summers and it just resonated with me. I knew this was meant for me.

“I’ve worked at schools for children with disabilities, with autism, with Down syndrome, and other developmental disabilities. I’ve worked at camps for sports and I’ve really, thankfully, done it all,” he added.

He also spent last summer as a director at Sunrise Day Camp - Long Island, a day-camp free of charge for youths who have or had cancer as well as their siblings. “This was something completely new for me,” he said. “I’d never ever worked with children with cancer, never knew anything about cancer, and it was the most eye-opening experience of my life and the best experience of my life,” he said.

As one who has struggled academically due to a reading comprehension learning disability, Spellman needed that passion for education to carry him to graduation on time. “When I came back in the fall of my sophomore year, it was definitely hard,” he said. “I thought I would have to stay an extra semester, but I talked with the SSD [Services for Students with Disabilities] office and they said, ‘Look, you really don’t have to. You could take courses over the winters and summers if you really want to, and you’ll be able to graduate on time.’”

And that’s what he did.

Originally a psychology major, Spellman switched to geography and urban planning after speaking with a number of mentors. Then, Binghamton’s minor in education gave him the direction he needed.

His first education class was with David Archer, who coordinates the undergraduate minor in education. “It was the best class right off the bat,” Spellman said. “A few weeks into the course Archer asked me to join the [Education Minor] Steering Committee, a group of 30-35 hand-selected students who pretty much run the minor. He oversees everything, but we do a lot, organizing events, making sure that students who are missing stuff are notified that they need something to graduate. We develop syllabi for new classes, etc.

“I joined and from there my educational experience in Binghamton just sprouted in every aspect.”

Archer said he and Spellman bonded right away over sports, “but as a student he stood out because of his smile and eyes, and he was an active learner.

“He would think before speaking, was very gregarious and other kids were drawn to him in group work,” Archer said. “Whether groups of three or 20, they wanted to work with Ty. Seeing his talents, I thought, ‘He’s got to serve on the steering committee. He has this personality. No worries, it will get done. And he follows through. He is highly organized and whatever he designs is good.’”

For Spellman, the more involved he became in education courses, the better his view of the field. “I started doing more in the community that Archer said would be a good fit for me, I became his TA and then I became a TA for two other education courses. I also worked and volunteered at three local youth programs along with being a literacy tutor at Gigi’s Playhouse. Meeting him opened up a lot of doors for me,” he said.

One of those doors was the opportunity to make a difference, as in the Stop the Bleed program that certifies and trains people to assist when someone is bleeding severely due to a life-threatening wound. He saw the need for training when a friend was severely injured, and Spellman had no idea how to help. Working with Harpur’s Ferry Ambulance Service and a friend, he organized the certification and training for about 120 education minor students.

“He came up with Stop the Bleed and said, “We have to do this Arch. Can I set it up?” Archer said. “And all of a sudden he had this program with certified instructors, students getting training certificates — and I see him on the Channel 12 news. He saw the need and just did it. He didn’t care that it cut into his social life; he did it.”

“It really was great, and it just made me happy knowing that even having one more person certified, they might be there in a time that’s needed,” Spellman said. “Unfortunately, in the field of education, you hear and see more and more about school shootings. As an educator, you’re going to be looked upon by your students, and you’re going to have to act and lead them. Knowing how to act yet hoping I will never need to is the best bet.”

In addition to Archer’s Education 406 (Teaching, Learning and Schooling) class, Education 444 (Leadership and Communication for the Modern Educator) stands out for Spellman. “406 gives you an overview of schools, learning types and the general field of education, but Education 444 is communication and leadership for the modern educator taught by Caroline Millen,” Spellman said. “Since I took her course, my mindset on life has truly changed for the better. I think her course should be mandatory for upper-class students.”

Spellman knows that the world is definitely changing due to COVID-19 — and so will the field of education — but he values in-person communication with and between students. “They learn from each other, they learn from who they see in the halls and I think that truly shapes who people are,” he said. “Unfortunately, many young kids just don’t really understand what’s going on right now, so that will play a huge factor, especially because I’m going to be an elementary school teacher. It will be rough, but it will be worth it.”

“It’s been fun to watch him,” Archer said. “I figured he would want to teach high school and coach, but his heart and soul is elementary. Education is at his soul.”

But his end goal is to one day be a principal or superintendent, Spellman said.

“Many of my past bosses have said don’t rush into leaving the classroom because if you do it too soon, you’ll regret it,” he said. “I definitely know I like beings hands-on, being able to help face-to-face, but I definitely do plan on getting my administration degree as soon as I can, not necessarily to use right away.”

He has a start. Spellman has begun his studies this summer — online — for a dual master’s degree in childhood education and special education at Touro College.

Posted in: Campus News, Harpur