Undergraduate Research and Creativity Alumni Profiles 

John Guzda, B.S. '12

High School Social Studies Teacher
Major(s): Social Studies Education  

What research or work have you done since graduating from Buffalo State?

Since graduation from Buffalo State College, I have been working the last five years as a high school social studies teacher in New Orleans, Louisiana. Teaching and learning alongside amazing young minds led me to pursue and complete a graduate degree in Curriculum and Instruction, so that I could be a better advocate for my talented students. In addition to teaching my kids Social Studies content in the classroom, much of my time has been spent helping them pursue their future aspirations. Assisting with College, Job and Scholarship applications is just as exciting for me as it is for my students. In addition to working with students, I have had the privilege to work alongside and learn from dedicated and inspiring educators who have shown me the importance and true meaning of teaching and learning.

Can you translate your work for the general public?

In times like these, it has become ever more important to do our part to try to make all of our youth feel safe, smart, respected and loved. As a public school teacher, I have this opportunity each day. In my Social Studies classroom, facilitating discussions about controversial topics and uncomfortable realities is so important. Through this work, the goal is to equip my students with the knowledge that is necessary to create a more tolerant and equitable world.

Why did you decide to get involved in undergraduate research?

Having the opportunity to develop and participate in a project which would take me outside of my comfort zone, while simultaneously being able to gain valuable international teaching experience was an opportunity I knew I had to take advantage of. Using personal, action-based research to discover the finer details of classroom management before my student-teaching assignments made my transition into a lead classroom instructor much easier.

How did your undergraduate research experience influence your career path?

When I began the research, I already knew that working in a classroom was my passion. The project however confirmed my desire to become a teacher. Completing the project in a different country with kids who were from a different background from myself made me begin to look at the world through a different lens. One of the many realizations that I had was that true personal growth happens when you step outside of your comfort zone. Traveling and working in a place that is different from where you grew up allows you to grow up! This experience was without a doubt the catalyst for moving to New Orleans after graduation to teach.

Describe the research you did and if you presented it at any professional conference, juried art exhibit, or other off-campus location.

The action-based research that I participated in occurred within a school in the country of Ghana, in West Africa. The research centered around an idea related to classroom management. Specifically, the idea that a classroom teachers can use class "leaders" who are students to minimize classroom disruptions throughout the course of a lesson. The specific strategy which was used has been proven to work in American classrooms, and the whole purpose of the study was to see how it would translate into a Ghanaian school and setting. The research completed was accepted and presented at the 2012 National Conference for the Social Studies in Seattle, Washington.

Undergraduate Research Mentor: Dr. Gregory Wadsworth