Lonjeté Nias graduated from Georgian Court University with a Supervisor Certification and currently works as the Supervisor of Special Services at an elementary school in New Jersey. After spending nine years as a mental health professional and seven years as a school social work, she decided to pursue her supervisor certification, a decision that ultimately led to her promotion to supervisor of special services. Hear what she had to say about her experience.
Why did you want to work in education? What inspired you?
As a licensed clinical social worker, having worked in the juvenile justice and corrections settings, I found an overwhelming theme in the inmates. Most were undiagnosed with both learning disabilities and mental health and socialization issues. So, I decided to pursue a career in the primary education setting to work with children as a preventative measure to avoid the pipeline-to-prison model.
Working with students in the school system as a professional with a mental health background does come with its challenges. For starters, social workers have to balance the line between what is best for the identified student, administrator, and other students affected by the identified student’s disruptive behaviors. We also balance between the National Association of Social Workers Code of Ethics and the School Social Worker Standards, which may contradict the school system’s practices.
I am inspired in my work in the education field because I am able to impress upon young children how to regulate their emotions and how to express them in a productive manner.
Why did you choose Georgian Court University for your supervisor certification?
I chose Georgian Court University to pursue my supervisor certification for several reasons:
- Academic excellence
Georgian Court University’s reputation for providing academic excellence as a local university was the main reason. The faculty was area (Monmouth and Ocean County) professors that were currently working in a school system. Their real life experiences were valuable in allowing students to see firsthand what to expect in administrative positions.
Another was the ease of the application process. There were advisors assigned to assist you in the process, which did get overwhelming at times. I last graduated in 1996 with my M.S.W., so getting transcripts from undergraduate and summer college programs was daunting, but with the assistance of my advisor it was achievable. Also, Georgian Court’s program was hybrid, meaning we met in-person and online, which was something I had never done.
Lastly, the relationships I formed with my cohort are invaluable. It has been almost two years, and I still am in contact with my some of my classmates. We formed a bond and now rely on each other for career support.
What skills did you gain or sharpen through your program at Georgian Court University and how do you use them today?
The skills that I gained through the program were enhanced supervisory and listening skills, along with understanding from a teacher perspective about curriculum.
The supervision courses were practical and well planned. Besides using the textbook, real life examples based on our and our professor’s experiences were utilized to make learning and retaining the styles easy.
As a Supervisor of Special Services, I am constantly evaluating curriculum and how it relates to the goals of a student’s individualized education plan. I am also incorporating different supervisory styles when interacting with my staff, which consists of teachers, paraprofessionals, related services professionals, and child study team members.
How has your supervisor certification impacted you in terms of your current position or a position you’d like to attain in the future?
As a result of my receiving my supervisor certification, I was promoted a year later from the school social worker to the supervisor of special services. I have been in this position for almost two years and find myself referring to my supervision and curriculum textbooks and notes for guidance.
Having the supervisor certification definitely has afforded me boundless career opportunities and experiences. I am a part of the NJ Association of Pupil Service Administrators (NJAPSA) cohort, where seasoned administrators mentor me. Being an administrator can be lonely, especially in the special education department. Being a part of several cohorts is a blessing that I do not take for granted.
What was a challenge you faced during your supervisor certification program, and who or what helped you overcome it?
As a social worker by trade, I found learning about and implementing the curriculum classes to be very challenging. I have never been a teacher, so understanding curriculum was foreign to me. But, I was comfortable enough to voice my concerns to the professors and to my classmates and was not looked upon as incompetent.
I was given time and opportunity to speak with the professor and also to my classmates outside of the classroom. My classmates and professors also shared their experiences with me so I could gain a better understanding.
This type of safe environment that allowed for my professional growth is what I will always remember about my time in the supervisor certification program.
What was the biggest takeaway from your supervisor certification program?
My biggest take away from the supervisor certification program is that education has endless opportunities for advancement. The students we serve are not the only ones that are learning, but as educators, we too must continue to learn and strive for greatness.
Georgian Court University’s supervisor certification program not only challenged me as an individual in the education realm, but as a future administrator to be able to understand teachers, staff, students, families, and communities in an effort to uplift all.
Another takeaway is that education is always evolving due to the diversity of our student body and communities. As supervisors it is up to us to lead our departments and buildings in embracing this change.
I honestly believe that my obtaining my supervisor certification from Georgian Court University has equipped me with a unique set of skills to accomplish my career goals and to assist others in doing so through supervision and guidance.
What would you tell (or what advice would you give) prospective students considering the supervisor certification program at Georgian Court University?
Be prepared to be challenged and to think about education from a different perspective. Trust the process and be vulnerable enough to ask for help. Take the help and offer your perspective, even if you don’t think you have anything to offer at the time. Take the time to complete your assignments with commitment, despite your busy days and nights. Know that it is a safe place to share your experiences on your current job, as no one will betray you. We all learn from each other’s experiences and can help each other succeed.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
Enjoy the experience, bond with your cohort members and professors, and laugh.