Student/Alumni Stories

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Check out some of our graduates from the Master of Science Program in Secondary Education.


Student/Alumni Stories - Michelle Woodruff


"I was an MSSE student from 2004 to 2006, and am proud to be an MSSE alumni. I made the best decision by enrolling in this program. MSSE has an excellent internship program and it certainly prepared me to become a confident teacher. I had internships at the Michigan School for the Deaf and Kansas School for the Deaf. The internships helped me to gain confidence as a teacher. The MSSE program has truly amazing professors who were fully involved with us. I continue sharing wonderful MSSE experiences with my family, colleagues and friends.

"I am married to George Woodruff who is also a RIT alumnus. My maiden name is Johnston. We got married in Chicago on July 14, 2007. We have an amazing son who was born on 08-08-08, and we have two cats and live in Chicago. I am an instructional specialist at Harper Community College in Palatine, IL, where I teach English classes. I recently had my students use a webcam to write an essay. The students use their first language, American Sign Language, to translate into written English via the webcam. This community college has the best support service for deaf and hard-of-hearing students in Illinois. It hosts many deaf events that benefit the community. I enjoy this job very much."


Student/Alumni Stories - Rukiya Isoke


"As a single mom working two jobs and raising two children, I began my career in 1989 and educational career in 1990 at RIT. I started taking one course at a time then two courses, sometimes three or four courses (evenings, days and weekends). By 2001 I had earn an Associate, Bachelor’s and Master of Science in Secondary Education. This would mark the beginning of a new career for me. In 2002, I relocated to Atlanta, Georgia. I began working with deaf high school students, whose average reading skills were at the second grade level. It was a challenge getting my students to read their ninth and 10th grade academic books. I was determined I would teach each grade level until I could figure out where my skills would be best served. I taught first, second, sixth and eighth grade students before landing the perfect position.

"For the past three academic years I have been teaching deaf infants and toddlers (3- and 4-year old). My job brings me so much joy! I know that I am making a difference in these young lives. They arrive to my classroom with zero-to-five sign words, point and cry. Once the students are 5 years old, they are promoted to Kindergarten. The average student leaves my classroom with an average vocabulary of 700-800 words, emerging reading skills, can provide personal information, can identify eight-10 sight words, produce sentences using four-seven words and write their name. I love my job! I would have ever believed the fulfillment one can get from a job. Thanks to earning my MSSE degree at NTID, I would have this opportunity!"


Student/Alumni Stories - Toni Lynn Ferreri-Van Bramer


When the Internet revolution was taking place in the 1990s, among those riding the wave of new technology was Toni Lynn Ferreri-Van Bramer, a 1999 graduate of the Master of Science program in Education of Students who are Deaf or Hard-of-Hearing (MSSE).

Technology was a huge benefit to a graduate student juggling the demands of a full-time job.

“E-mail made things easy,” she explains. “I was able to contact my professors via e-mail, and began receiving assignments on e-mail, which allowed me to get a jump start on my work.”

Now a teacher of American Sign Language as a foreign language in the Rochester City School District and an adjunct instructor at Nazareth College of Rochester, Ferreri-Van Bramer recently wrote a letter of recommendation for one of her students who is now an MSSE student. She also brings middle and high school students to NTID’s Panara Theatre and for college tours.

“I chose RIT/NTID because it is the best place to learn about deafness,” she recalls. “I wanted to learn more about sign language, teaching and working with deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals, and I wanted the opportunity to use my sign language skills. As a hearing person, I wanted to be as proficient as possible in sign language.”

Ferreri-Van Bramer lives in the Rochester suburb of Perinton, N.Y., with her husband, Kurt, and son, Joshua, and hopes to be a school administrator in the future.

“I’d like to pursue my Ph.D.,” she says. “I haven’t decided on the specific area of study, but will figure that out.


Student/Alumni Stories - Brooke J. Erickson


Brooke J. Erickson was named the new K-12 school principal at Rochester School for the Deaf.

Erickson graduated with a Master of Science in secondary education of students who are deaf or hard of hearing in 2005 from Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf. She taught English for 10 years.

Erickson received her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Studies in educational leadership from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts in 2015. Erickson previously worked at New York State School for the Deaf in Rome, New York, as head of the department of curriculum and instruction. She is a two-time recipient of the Most Influential Educator Award through the Rome College Foundation.


Student/Alumni Stories - Kelly S. Kim


Kelly S. Kim believes the most important lesson in life is to be true to yourself. Born in Atlanta and raised in Marietta, Georgia, Kim lives in Marlborough, Massachusetts, with his husband, foster son, two cats and a dog, and is a middle school teacher in the secondary program at The Learning Center for the Deaf in Framingham, Massachusetts. But he almost took a different path.

“Growing up, I thought about becoming a teacher, but my parents didn’t think it was a good idea,” he says. “I then thought about becoming a counselor or a psychologist for deaf children, but realized that might not be in my future. RIT’s master in Psychology program required me to take a few MSSE (Master of Science Program in Secondary Education of Students who are Deaf and Hard of Hearing) classes, and I fell in love with education and teaching.”

Kim graduated from the MSSE program in 2003. He teaches English/Language Arts and Literature to sixth - eighth graders who are deaf and hard of hearing, and also teaches some science classes. He is board president for DEAF, Inc., a multi-service community-based non-profit agency in the Boston area, and also chairs the Statewide Advisory Council, under the auspices of the Massachusetts Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing. He recently received the Early Career Educators of Color Leadership Award from the National Council of Teachers of English, and will be presenting at the organization’s conference later this year.

“RIT/NTID was a perfect choice for me when I thought about going to graduate school,” he says. “I knew that it provided interpreting services, wonderful professors and has a thriving deaf and hard-of-hearing community. RIT/NTID provided me a foundation to launch my dreams and goals, and the many friendships I maintain to this day.”


Student/Alumni Stories - Gabrielle Nocciolino


Sometimes, leaving one thing behind opens the door to amazing possibilities, as RIT/NTID alumna Gabrielle Nocciolino discovered.

“I was in 8th grade when I quit violin, and my mother insisted that I replace it with something else,” the Binghamton, New York, native says. “I was fascinated with language and culture, even at a young age, and wanted to learn sign language, so my mother found a local interpreter who taught me for a year.”

After that, Nocciolino and her mother signed up for a class together, and she began taking classes during high school. By her senior year, she knew the direction she wanted to go.

“If I was going to study every day for four years it had to be something I love,” she says. “American Sign Language was the only thing that didn’t feel like work.”

Unlike her twin sister, who applied to nine colleges, Nocciolino applied only to RIT. “I knew what I wanted to do, and I knew the best place to do it was RIT/NTID,” she says.

Nocciolino earned a bachelor’s degree in American Sign Language-English Interpretation in 2009, and a master’s degree in Secondary Education of Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing in 2011. She received the Outstanding Graduate Award for both degrees. She also earned a certificate from the NTID Performing Arts Program.

“My mother and father both work in the arts, and it always has been a part of my life,” she says. Today she's a middle school teacher at the Texas School for the Deaf in Austin, teaching English/Language Arts and Theater Arts, and directing several high school productions. This fall, she will be a Theater Arts teacher and director full time.

When asked what advice she would give students looking for a college, Nocciolino says, “Get involved outside of the classroom and create your home there. And remember, it’s easy to be bad at something you don’t enjoy. It’s a lot harder to be bad at something when you love what you do.”


Student/Alumni Stories - Thomastine Sarchet


Paying it forward is important to Pittsburgh native, Thomastine Sarchet, associate director of NTID’s Pre-College Education Network (P-CEN).

“I knew that I wanted to work at RIT/NTID because I wanted to contribute to the community that helped me grow up,” says Sarchet, a two-time RIT alumna.

After completing a bachelor’s degree in Biology at RIT, she got a job—coordinating Vocational Rehabilitation services for deaf and hard-of-hearing students at RIT’s Campus Connections Bookstore.

“My career here has had a strange trajectory,” she says. “I had learned to sign as a student, and at the bookstore, I could maintain my connection to the deaf community. I then worked as a C-Print captionist, but missed interacting with deaf students in the way I had been able to do at the bookstore. That’s when I realized I wanted to combine my love of science and teaching with my deaf community involvement, so I applied for the Master of Science Program in Secondary Education of Students who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing. While completing my master’s, I worked in the Center for Education Research Partnerships at NTID, then moved to my current role at P-CEN. I also have worked as an adjunct instructor for two NTID academic departments.

“I love working here because I love the energy of our students, and I appreciate the support of the community,” says Sarchet. “Each unit I have worked in has been like a family. My proudest achievements here are seeing students I have worked with graduate, and working with deaf education programs in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Region.”

“RIT/NTID is a unique place that gives me the ability to use my varied skill set,” says Sarchet, who is working on her doctorate in Teaching and Curriculum at the University of Rochester. “My mother told my siblings and me, if we were going to do something, do it all the way. RIT/NTID has given me a lot, so I want to give back all the way.”