Crystal Sessoms ’11 (Childhood & Special Education and Master of Education in Literacy Education) came to Roberts Wesleyan College from Long Island City High School in Queens, NY. Life away from NYC took a bit of adjusting. Balancing school, her responsibilities as a varsity basketball player, and life in general kept her busy. A couple years removed, and working full-time as a sixth-grade special education teacher in the Ithaca City School District, her Roberts experience has come into focus.
So many people influenced her current passion for teaching. Professor John Campolieto made a comment that has stuck with her and has given her a passion for equity. He simply said, “fair does not mean equal.” Crystal’s work with special-needs students, her role as an equity mentor in her district, and her desire to help those who need extra encouragement stem from these five words and the guidance she received from the Roberts faculty. Professor Naomi Garwood ignited her passion for literacy and Professor Jeanne Clidas encouraged her professional growth while in the graduate teacher education program.
Teaching in the Ithaca City School District is both challenging and rewarding. Crystal co-teaches English and math with about 20 students in each period. She also teaches in the Resource Room. During this time they focus on developing student skills and learning strategies so each student can meet his or her IEP goals. Crystal says, “One of the most rewarding parts of the job is seeing a kid smile and hearing them confidently say ‘I can’ rather than ‘I can't.’ I enjoy seeing students engaged in challenging work and using deep-thinking skills to unpack a task; it’s also very rewarding to see students collaborate with one another and engage in discussion together to help one another learn.”
Crystal also grew in her faith while at Roberts. While it might not have seemed like it at the time, all of the Chapel services, spent sitting up front with Coach Bob Segave and the rest of the Women’s Basketball team, had a big impact on her. Those Chapel experiences became the catalyst for spiritual growth. Crystal says, “I am thankful that what I thought at first to be a simple team requirement, turned out to be a significant part of my life and my ongoing spiritual growth.”
Crystal is grateful for the people who helped make her Roberts experience so worthwhile. From faculty who went the extra mile (like Professor Bill Hayes who helped her prepare her cover letter and resume for Teacher Recruitment Day; it led to her job in Ithaca), to staff and alumni who made the extra effort on her behalf (bus driver Kenny Beguhl dropping students off at their dorms after late games, “Aunt” Sue Harkin’s enthusiasm at each basketball event, or helpful financial aid experts like Kristine Reed). Crystal understood she was a valued member of the Roberts community. Those experiences have helped fuel her passion for special-needs students in her classes.
Crystal lives in Ithaca, NY. She is actively involved in the Ithaca Calvary Baptist Church. She also coaches girl’s basketball and mentors young women as they work to reach their goals.