Early in her teaching career, Laura Cirrincione knew that the "Fredonia experience" prepared her well to become a successful teacher. So she didn't hesitate beginning to "pay it forward" to benefit Fredonia's future teacher candidates.
Laura, who earned a B.S. in Education with a concentration in Music Education in 1976 and an M.S.Ed. in Elementary Education with a concentration in Curriculum and Instruction in 1980, created the Laura A. Cirrincione Education Scholarship in 2011 after many years of annual giving. She became a member of the Dallas K. Beal Legacy Society in 2014. Initially, her annual contributions were modest, but they rose steadily as Laura's teaching career - and her ability to give — grew.
"I always had it in my mind that when I got my first ‘real' paying job...that I would start to pay it forward," Laura says. The transition from teaching in parochial schools to public schools made it feasible for her to steadily increase her giving. The Fredonia College Foundation awarded the first Cirrincione scholarship — intended for seniors majoring in Elementary, Secondary or Music Education — in 2013.
"Every part of my life has been affected by my experiences at Fredonia. Through the ‘Fredonia experience,'" Laura remembers, "the world opened up to me. I explored. I joined. I played. I worked. I led. Forty years later, I am a better person for having attended Fredonia and I've always wanted to do what I could so that others could fly, too."
Laura was an athlete as well as an award-winning musician at Frontier Central High School in Hamburg, N.Y., and was recruited by top music schools. But they were all pretty expensive and offered limited financial assistance. She was attracted to Fredonia by the value associated with State University of New York schools and financial assistance the state offered to families with limited financial resources. In addition, volleyball coach Liz Darling made it clear she wanted Laura on her team.
The seed to become a teacher was planted when Laura joined her brothers and cousins to "play school" in her grandfather's basement. "He installed a school-sized chalkboard and had all the materials we could possibly need to successfully carry out our roles," she recalls. Two of her three brothers are also alums, Andrew, '77, and John, '84. Laura also proudly reports that her grandfather, Frank Cavalieri, was a woodshop teacher at Grover Cleveland High School and once held the title of the Teacher of the Year in Buffalo Public Schools.
Teaching goals changed, from fifth grade to music to mathematics, based on how much Laura admired teachers in Frontier schools - and after spending her freshman year in the School of Music, Laura changed her major to Education.
At Fredonia, Education Professor J. Brien Murphy clearly stood out to Laura for reasons that transcend conventional book learning. "It wasn't so much the topics of reading that stuck with me. It was to love what you are doing with all of your heart. Have a passion for it. I could see him teach like that. It was something I wanted," she says.
So great was Laura's admiration for Dr. Murphy that she asked him to sit on her master's oral exam, and he agreed to award her the degree.
Now retired, Laura taught in elementary schools in the Buffalo, N.Y., area as well as in St. Mary's County, Maryland.
Laura thrived as a classroom teacher, savoring math and science instruction, as well as the boisterous activities of recess and the peacefulness found in the classroom at 6:30 a.m. She reveled in laughing with students, receiving big hugs from them and getting to know their families. Laura coached girls' softball and basketball and assisted with cheerleading at Our Lady of the Sacred Heart in Orchard Park, N.Y. During her tenure in Maryland she also coached JV volleyball and basketball teams at Great Mills High School and was an assistant varsity softball coach.
"I always felt that the experiences that I had, especially because I lived on campus for four years, helped mold me into the person I am today. Fredonia not only prepared me for a successful career in education, but instilled in me the leadership skills, drive and determination to succeed wherever I put my mind," Laura said when she created the scholarship.
In remarks at the College of Education's 2015 awards ceremony, Laura urged students to remember the opportunities that Fredonia provided to them. "Look back and be grateful" and be receptive to funding requests from the Fredonia College Foundation, she said. "Donate what your circumstances will allow."
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