The Student Becomes The Teacher: An Interview with Molly O'Steen '04

Next school year, one of the new assistant teachers in the Elementary Division will be Molly O’Steen ’04, one of the original members of our school’s first class to graduate from 8th grade. Recently Molly shared what she’s been up to and how she feels about her new position with Mr. Palmer, who taught her both English and algebra when she was in middle school.
Mr. Palmer: What have you been up to since graduation from RSS in 2004?
Molly: Wow, that was more than 10 years ago! Crazy. After RSS I attended the Calhoun School for high school, which was a really wonderful experience. For anyone who is interested in the arts but also wants to have access to strong academic classes it's a great place to go to for high school. It was at Calhoun that I got involved in theater, since their drama department is amazing. I was in productions of Hair, Cabaret, and I even got to have a play I wrote produced for the fall production of my senior year! After Calhoun I went to Emerson College in Boston, where I studied theater education. I loved going to school and Boston, and the program taught me creative and innovative ways to teach and introduce new material to students of all ages. I also spent my last semester living in LA working on the Conan show! Since graduating from Emerson I’ve moved back to wonderful NYC, trading the Upper West Side for Astoria, and have had the opportunity to work at a number of schools in the area. I also just started a Master’s program at CUNY Hunter, where I’m studying Childhood Special Education.

Mr. Palmer: That sounds like a great series of schools and adventures. What made you want to work in education?

Molly: I’ve wanted to be a teacher for as long as I can remember, but I truly made the choice to be in education around my junior year of high school. Throughout my academic career I have been incredibly blessed to have so many amazing teachers, and that experience has made me want to teach myself. Both at RSS and Calhoun I had teachers that inspired and encouraged me in really incredible ways. I also love the idea of introducing new ideas and materials to people. Every time I’ve been able to introduce a student to a new book, or teach them about some interesting historical event they had never heard of before, it’s an amazing moment.

Mr. Palmer: I know! It’s a very special profession, and it’s cool for all us teacher types to hear of former students joining our ranks. How do you feel about returning to your alma mater as a teacher?

Molly: I am so incredibly excited to be returning to RSS as a teacher. RSS is where I first fell in love with education, and to come full circle like this is the best experience a teacher could hope for. RSS is so deeply ingrained in my family: my older sister Danielle attended the school, class of ’93. I’ve had the opportunity to work in many different schools, but I still think that RSS is the most wonderful of them all. The students are amazing, the teachers are amazing, everyone is just so happy and ready to learn here. I had the opportunity to visit Jenny Gellert’s classroom for grad school recently, and getting to spend all day in her room was an absolute treat. Jenny and Sarah are just like the teachers I had when I was a kid; they’re just so great. ALL the teachers I had at RSS had an impact on me. Learning Hebrew from Morah Hava, falling in love with literature because of teachers like you, Ms. Piette and Ms. Strapp, becoming obsessed with history because of teachers like Mr. Feldman and Mr. Carlson, getting to explore my artistic side with Ms. Blaikie and Mr. Schwartz. What I love so much about RSS is that it is frozen in time in the best way. Everything that I loved about RSS as a child has stayed the same, and you feel such a warm sense of community when you’re in the building. I’ve recently been going through old report cards, papers, etc. from my days at RSS and it’s reminding me how amazing my teachers were. I recently found a report card written by Mr. Feldman where he ended it by saying, “Overall, a real quality start from one of the planet’s great people.” Working at RSS is truly a dream come true for me.
Mr. Palmer: That is such an awesome answer! And thanks for the shout-out. I agree with you so much, especially about our talented teachers and how the heart of this place stays the same even as we grow and evolve. One last request: tell us what part of the job you’re looking forward to the most.
Molly: It's certainly hard to pick just one thing. I'm excited to work with one of the many amazing head teachers at RSS. I know I will learn so much and grow exponentially as an educator. Also I can't wait to have a classroom of RSS students that I get to watch grow and learn throughout the school year. RSS students have always been such intelligent, warm and funny kids, and I really can't wait to get to know them.
Mr. Palmer: Thanks, Molly. And welcome aboard!
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