“With a little madness, you can cut the rope and be free.”
That bit of wisdom, paraphrased from the movie Zorba the Greek, inspired Anne Marie Santoro to eventually become a nationally recognized education expert and founder of From The Heart Communications.
It is also the perfect phrase for people contemplating a graduate degree in education, she said on Nov. 3 at the Westchester campus.
Santoro delivered the keynote address at Careers for Educators: The Long and Winding Road: Stories of Extraordinary Career Paths, sponsored by the Fordham Graduate School of Education (GSE) and Career Services.
A similar workshop was held two days earlier at the Lincoln Center campus, where Ron Thorpe, Ed.D., vice president of WNET/Channel 13, spoke to participants.
At both events, the keynote speakers preceded a panel of current and former GSE students who had landed education jobs outside of traditional classrooms or left other fields for education.
People searching for examples of long, winding careers, could hardly do better than to learn about Santoro, who began as a teacher in Public School 115 in Washington Heights, a job that she said she adored.
She then was offered a position as director of educational programs and services at the nascent Children’s Television Workshop, in part because dabbling in real estate had given her sales experience—a skill for which the workshop’s founders were looking.
“I was 28 years old, and I didn’t want to be 48 years old and have this question in my head: ‘How would my life have been different if I had taken that job at Channel 13?’” she said.
After a decade of promoting community outreach programs such as Sesame Street’s fire-safety and lead-poisoning projects, she managed to “cut the rope and leap out of Big Bird’s nest” to start her own company.
“I’m sure there are many people in this room who’ve had a moment like that in their lives. Or you might be at that moment right now. Now that’s something to really reflect on. These decisions that shoot up like this, may feel like a crisis place, but in a way they’re really a giant gift.”
During the panel discussion, David Cruz, (GSE ’01) an ESL teacher in the Lakeland Central School District, described how he began in the mailroom at Time Warner, and after 12 years was on the verge of becoming an assistant production finance manager at People magazine.
“At the time, I read a book by Herman Hesse called Siddhartha, and it was great. I said, ‘If I’m going to make a switch, I need to do it now.’”
After working briefly as a teaching assistant in White Plains, he earned his master’s degree in education through Fordham’s BETLA program while working as a graduate assistant.
Thomas Frankie (FCRH ’96, GSE ’00), an educational specialist in the education division of the Wildlife Conservation Society at the Bronx Zoo, began following an even more roundabout path when he dropped out of law school in his third year.
“One of the things that I fell in to was going to local high schools and talking about codes of ethics, and I absolutely love it,” he said. “I loved it so much more than any of the legal stuff I was doing, so that’s when that leap happened.”
He went back to school, and upon graduation, interned for a year with the Bronx Zoo—a position that turned into a full-time job.
When his wife decided to pursue her doctorate in Massachusetts, he took a position at the much-smaller Buttonwood Park Zoo in New Bedford.
“I worked there for four years, and it gave me the opportunity to interact with scientists on a level that was not possible in the Bronx because I was too far down the ladder,” he said.
That experience came in handy when his current position opened up. He was able to return to the Bronx Zoo, where he helps New York City teachers integrate science into their curriculum.
“I wouldn’t change a thing; it’s really terrific,” he said. “It’s been a long, winding road.”