Eastern Center for Arts and Technology (EASTERN) is pleased to announce that Networking and Cybersecurity Instructor, Mr. Michael Refsnider, has been named New Teacher of the Year by the Pennsylvania Association for Career and Technical Education. This award recognizes career and technical education teachers with 3-5 years’ experience who have made significant contributions toward innovative and unique career and technical education programs and shown a professional commitment early in their careers. This honor is given to only one teacher in Pennsylvania each year.
Refsnider always wanted to be teacher but didn’t see a path to teaching in the IT world. He enjoyed the training side of his previous job more than any other aspect. Refsnider was nominated by EASTERN’s Executive Director, Dr. Cathleen Plesnarski with the help and support of EASTERN’s Assistant Director, Mr. Joe Greb, and EASTERN Cosmetology Instructor, Ms. Wendy Leyden. Leyden served as Refsnider’ s mentor when he was hired.
“Mr. Refsnider started his teaching career at EASTERN 6 months before the pandemic closed schools and significantly changed the way we teach, work, and learn. Mr. Refsnider immediately went from new teacher to mentor in a matter of minutes,” said Dr. Plesnarski. “He was a lead teacher in implementing a new student information system, implementing online learning, and providing overall technology support to peers.”
Refsnider cites the most challenging aspect of transitioning to teaching from industry was the unknown. He found the teaching part to come naturally but needed to focus on learning the procedures required aside from teaching.
“My second year was much tougher than my first with all of the changes and the multiple cohorts of students, said Refsnider. “I just welcomed change and took things one day at a time. I reached out to knowledgeable teachers and staff for wisdom with whatever problems I saw. I try to keep things as relevant to the students as possible and try to get to know them. It’s easier to apply the curriculum to the students when you know them and their interests. I found hands-on activities also have sparked a lot of interest in my students. My advice to a new teacher would be find wisdom in other teachers and use that wisdom to your advantage. Also, with anything new, you need to embrace change and understand you are going to make mistakes. The key is to learn from them.”