Ensuring School-Age Patients Receive an Education: Meet Natalie Curran

Editor’s Note: This month, Teach.com — an educational web resource for information on becoming a teacher — features Neag School alumna Natalie Curran ’11 (ED), ’12 MA in its “8 Questions” series, which showcases teachers who have transitioned their classroom skills into new and exciting careers in, and beyond, the field of education. Access the original Q&A on Teach.com’s site.

Alum Natalie Curran
Neag School alum Natalie Curran ’11 (ED), ’12 MA is a partnership consultant for LearnWell. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Curran)

1. What’s your name, location and current profession?

My name is Natalie Curran, and I live in Boston. I am a partnership consultant within the business development team of LearnWell. In this role, I work to build partnerships with hospitals, treatment centers, and residential programs that need an education solution for their school-age patients while they are unable to attend their traditional school settings during treatment.

2. Where did you earn your teaching certification and where did you go to school?

I graduated with my bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education. My bachelor’s degree is in elementary education. My master’s degree is in curriculum and instruction. I am currently certified to teach in Connecticut, New York, and South Carolina!

3. For how long were you a teacher?

I taught full time for about 1.5 years, beginning my career with LearnWell in August 2012 as a hospital teacher at the Behavioral Health Center at Westchester Medical Center in New York. I taught students in grades K-6 who were hospitalized with diagnoses such as oppositional defiant disorder, autism, ADHD, anxiety disorders, and other generalized mood disorders. In the Spring of 2013 I was asked by LearnWell to help teach at a hospital in South Carolina. There, I taught primarily adolescents in grades 7-12 with anxiety, depression, psychosis, and other behavioral disorders. Later in 2013, I began taking on more managerial responsibilities with LearnWell like recruiting, training, and mentoring of teachers.

“It made me happy to know that these kids still have access to education despite their mental illness and being in the hospital. It is the one normal part of their day between therapy groups, meetings with doctors and psychologists, and not sleeping in their own bed at night.”

4. What was the most rewarding part of being a classroom teacher?

Three things stand out the most. First was recognizing the small successes. I only worked with children for a few weeks at most before they were discharged from the hospital. Having a child who historically struggled in school, disliked their teachers and schoolwork, but was willing to come to my class, sit down, and be somewhat ready to learn was a HUGE success. It definitely didn’t happen on the first day for the majority of the population I worked with, so by the second, third, or fourth day, when they would come for even just a short time, that was amazing! Second, it made me happy to know that these kids still have access to education despite their mental illness and being in the hospital. It is the one normal part of their day between therapy groups, meetings with doctors and psychologists, and not sleeping in their own bed at night. And last, I feel I was able to make school fun for the kids. There was a lot of flexibility in the curriculum, which let me plan very hands-on lessons that were relatable and engaging for the kids. This engagement was so rewarding for me. I wanted them to see that school wasn’t so bad and to help restore their confidence so that they could be successful when they return to their traditional schools.

5. What about classroom teaching did you find most challenging?

Not taking things personally. This was a population going through a very hard time, so often there was aggression, I’d be called names, told I was the worst teacher ever, the list goes on … I needed to stay extra patient, remain calm in my demeanor and response, and begin every day with a clean slate for all.

6. Why did you decide to transition from classroom teaching to your current profession?

I decided to transition primarily because I wanted to continue growing and challenging myself in new ways.

Child in hospital (Thinkstock image)
LearnWell helps hospitals and school districts to provide academic instruction to students who are on an extended absence due to health concerns. (Thinkstock Photo)

7A. What is the best part of your current job?

The best part of being in business development is that I get to tap into a completely different skill set and become more professionally well-rounded. Instead of working with young children, I am now working with adults. I attend conferences with hospital CEOs, treatment center vice presidents, and medical directors; this is a whole new peer group to converse with, while trying to orchestrate partnerships with their organizations. I enjoy learning, and learning how to expand our company has been a great experience so far. It is very exciting to close a deal with a new partner hospital or treatment center for us to teach in!

7B. What skills did you gain from classroom teaching that have allowed you to excel in your current profession?

I always heard that teachers make great salespeople. We know how to listen to student’s or client’s needs. We know how to speak clearly to an audience and ask all of the right questions. We know how to craft compelling and engaging messages to gain attention, and we know how to be creative on the spot! All of these skills have significantly led to me being successful in my current role. Not to mention, I know the product I am selling very well since I was a hospital teacher to start!

8. What advice would you offer a current teacher who is looking to make a career change to outside of the classroom?

Do it. First off, if any part of you does not want to teach anymore then that isn’t fair to the students you may currently be working with. They deserve 100 percent all of the time. If you still aren’t sure, ask yourself this question (this was the big one for me): ‘In 40 years when I look back on my career, will I regret that I never got out of my comfort zone to try something new?’ I answered yes to this question. I am also very lucky because I was transitioning roles within the same company and I knew I could also always go back to teaching if I missed it too much.

Natalie Curran ’11 (ED), ’12 MA is originally from Rochester, N.Y. After graduating from the University of Connecticut’s Neag School of Education, she moved to New York City to begin her career. Now living in Boston, Curran enjoys spending time with family and friends, playing recreational softball, going bowling, and traveling. Connect with Curran on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/natalie-curran-79463682/.

Access the original Q&A featured on Teach.com’s site.