She never planned on staying home for college.
But when St. Joseph’s College offered Rebecca Kurz-Rigby a great scholarship and a chance to study at a school known for its education programs, the future teacher knew it was a win-win.
Now working at East Coweta High School in Georgia, Kurz-Rigby is thankful for her decision to attend St. Joseph’s.
“My favorite memories of being at St. Joseph’s were being able to start taking the classes that related to my major, and getting to speak with those professors,” said Kurz-Rigby, who graduated from SJC Long Island in 2015 with a B.A. in English with a Concentration in Adolescence Education. “Those classes really solidified that I was on the right career path because they were always about something that made me excited.”
She remains inspired by the classes she took with Marc Ricciardi, Ph.D., associate professor of English, and Margaret Moss, P.D., former assistant professor of education, who Kurz-Rigby says had the biggest impact on her.
“Professor Ricciardi’s classes were never ‘just’ about the literature,” the SJC alumna said. “He always found a way to mix life lessons into his lectures, and he always made class so interesting. Professor Moss’ class was not easy by any means, but it really forced me to think through what I wanted to do with students, and how I wanted to reach them.”
Succeeding in the Classroom
After graduating from St. Joseph’s College, the former Mastic, New York, resident went on to teach at Amityville Middle School and Amityville High School. She pursued an M.A. in English from LIU Post, which she earned in 2017 before moving to Newnan, Georgia.
Kurz-Rigby has worked at East Coweta High School for four years, where she has taught 12th grade British Literature.
“My favorite part of my job is working with the students and helping them realize their full potential,” said Kurz-Rigby, 27. “I have had students who felt like they were failures because they did not like school, but once I got to know them and talk with them, they realized there were other options for them besides the traditional college route. I love helping students and supporting them.”
And although being a teacher was her dream job since she was a child, Kurz-Rigby acknowledged that it’s not without its challenges.
“The hardest part of teaching is just that, teaching!” she said. “Teaching is not a ‘one-size-fits-all’ job, and it takes a lot to work with a room of 30 students who all learn differently, have different interests, and learn at different paces. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
From Educator to Administrator
Despite loving teaching, Kurz-Rigby decided to make a change this semester and move on to a new role, where she felt she could make more of an impact.
Now, she serves as a teacher leader for MTSS, or multi-tiered system of supports, at East Coweta.
“I never thought I would ever want to leave the classroom,” Kurz-Rigby said. “I love teaching and getting to know my students, and helping them figure out what they want to do with their lives.
“In Georgia, there is a degree between master’s and doctorate that is called a specialist,” she continued. “Mine is in instructional technology, but while earning that degree, I learned more about my school and how many students there are that need an extra ‘cheerleader’ on their side, fighting for additional help in the school. I realized I wanted to do more for them, so I decided to become an administrator.”
Kurz-Rigby is thankful for her own “cheerleader” in life — her sister Rachel Kurz-DellaRatta.
“My sister is my biggest inspiration in life,” she said. “Our mom passed away when I was 3, and we both had to grow up very quickly. We, of course, had amazing support from family and our close family friends, but Rachel was always the person I looked to. She was always a person (and still is) who has no problem telling you if you’re making a stupid decision, but she will always be your biggest supporter. I don’t know how different my life would be if I did not have my sister.”
Now, thanks to the support of her sister and her husband George (a fellow SJC Long Island alum), Kurz-Rigby is pursuing a Ph.D. in Educational Leadership from Liberty University Online, which she hopes to finish in fall 2022. With that degree, she hopes to fulfill her new dream of becoming an administrator at her current school.