Q&A: From Oregon to Ohio, English teacher makes impact

English teacher Gabrielle Ciofani shows her class rules, as she long-term subs for English teacher Paige Zenovic.

Gabrielle Ciofani

English teacher Gabrielle Ciofani shows her class rules, as she long-term subs for English teacher Paige Zenovic.

Kelsey Mize, Staff Writer

The Paw Print’s Kelsey Mize sat down with English teacher Gabrielle Ciofani to discuss her versatile role as a long-term sub over the last two school years.

Kelsey: What attracted you to teaching?

Ciofani: I believe that the future is in the hands of the youth, right? So it’s important to provide people with good information to help change their lives and things like that. I have always been into communication too since it gives people a voice in their own lives.

Kelsey: Oh, really? Me too! That’s what I hope to major in in college.

Ciofani: Isn’t it wonderful? I worked on my school newspaper when I was in high school, and I loved it!

Kelsey: Did you have a certain position that you did?

Ciofani: I was the editor, which was fun, but even being on the staff was great, too!

Kelsey: Have you had any other teaching jobs prior to these subbing positions?

Ciofani: I have been teaching for about 10 years. When I was at Kent State is when I started teaching poetry. I also taught at Ravenna. After I graduated, I moved out to the west coast and I started teaching at the International hostel on Hawthrone and that was in Portland, so I did some teaching there and I taught after-school programs like science, technology, engineering, arts, and math, which was a lot of fun and I would go around on the Oregon coast and just go from school to school in the district.

Kelsey: That sounds like a lot of fun! Lots of opportunities for sure.

Ciofani: Oh for sure. I subbed on the Oregon coast too when I lived out there too.

Kelsey: How did you hear about the sub position at the high school?

Ciofani: Assistant principal [Jane] Perry called me regarding the ESL position and also assistant principal [Jarrod] Mulheman contacted me about the other position.

Kelsey: Why were you chosen to be a long-term sub for Ms. Zenovic?

Ciofani: I was eager to fulfill this role ever since last year when I was working in the ESL department and was going to the English department meetings. Ms. Zenovic said, ‘Hey, I’m going to need to take some time off.’ I said, ‘Well, please keep me in mind. You know I would love to work with you.’ Have you ever had Ms. Zenovic as a teacher

Kelsey: No I have not, but I’ve heard great things about her!

Ciofani: Yeah, she’s a great teacher, so it’s a lot of fun being in her classroom. She is a very organized teacher and was all laid out very nicely.

Kelsey: What type of responsibilities have you needed to learn to teach Zenovic’s classes?

Ciofani: So [Zenovic] does a lot with the flipped classroom approach. It’s great and is kind of a big focal point for all of the teachers this year and I believe last year, especially as time continues on. It makes sense for students to access materials from home… and you know, it makes sense because all students learn differently. As we are continuing to grow and learn about ourselves, we want to know how we can set up ourselves for success. For example, you might watch a video one time and might understand all of it. One time is all you need. The other person might need to watch it a couple of times, rewind certain parts, maybe have a snack break in between and then come back and finish your video, right? So, the flipped classroom approach allows each learner to kind of work with their strengths a little more effectively. Working with the flipped classroom approach has allowed me to learn a lot of techniques with that method, and I continue to pass those techniques on to other staff and students.

Kelsey: I’m using the flipped classroom in Calculus, and it has helped me so much. It really does.

Ciofani: Oh really? That’s great! How do you think it helps you in Calculus?

Kelsey: I just think that it gives you examples and gives you the responsibility to do it on your own and learn for yourself and not with the burden of others holding you back.

Ciofani: Exactly! And it also gives you the time to finish your work. It gives you the chance to work at your own pace and set yourself up for success, and that’s different for each person.

Kelsey: What has been one of the most challenging things you have had to endure while subbing?

Ciofani: The most challenging and also the most rewarding thing is working with a limited amount of time in order to effectively build rapport with students. Building relationships is pretty much one of the most important foundational components of successful education. I really find that when you give respect and speak with integrity, it is in turn a ripple effect. It is a technique I use to build quick and effective relationships with my students with that shortened time frame.

Kelsey: How has this teaching position given you more knowledge in the teaching field?

Ciofani: With every opportunity and go in there and work as another teacher for a day, it gives you the opportunity to be able to see what techniques work and what tips and tricks each teacher uses so I can remember in the back of my mind, ‘this was successful in this class. I can use it later in this class again.’ With each position, I get to learn more about the techniques used in classrooms that are beneficial in the realms of education.

Kelsey: I have always given substitute teachers praise because they go to so many different classrooms and work in such a different environment. As for last year, you were a substitute teacher for the ESL teacher. How was your experience with that and what did you learn?

Ciofani: When I took master’s level courses in ESL and instructing students who are not English native speakers – and keep in mind that English is in their second language but it can be their third or fourth language as well – our English language learners: how can we set them up in the classroom with certain tip and tools? It was great for me to utilize the things that I have learned through my schooling to help students that are non-native speakers build-up to their success.

Kelsey: Was it difficult to teach the children that had four or five different languages than others or was it the same?

Ciofani: I think what’s awesome is that people are people and we can find common ground with all of us. Something that we all questioned together is what we all liked to celebrate? The first thing that I do is find that common ground and share celebration among cultures, so that was pretty much our big uniting point as a class. I would say that in a way, the more languages you know, the easier it is to understand different ones. For instance, if you start with romance languages, there are so many roots that are similar. The main components of words – the prefixes and suffixes – are similar across these languages.

Kelsey: I totally agree. I am in AP Italian right now, and sometimes I help my friends with their Spanish just because it is so similar.

Ciofani: Are you thinking about going to Italy someday?

Kelsey: I was actually planning on going on the school trip during my sophomore year but because of Covid, it had to be canceled. Even so, I hope to study abroad in college and possibly do a minor in Italian Studies in college.

Ciofani: I highly encourage it! I only spent a month studying abroad, but when I was there, I had a great time and I found out that before kids either graduate high school or during college or go on a holiday (which they call it), you go and explore places. You get to see where you fit in best, and it gives you something to work towards.

Kelsey: What do you hope to do with Mayfield high school in the future?

Ciofani: I just got the email from principal [Jeff] Legan that I am board approved starting Oct. 25 as the junior class adviser, so I am looking forward to helping plan prom and to organize some Open Mic days here with students, as well as Chipotle fundraisers. I hope to see and fulfill needs as they arise in the school.