Education Award-Winning Alum Encourages Students to Set Goals, Persevere

Education Award-Winning Alum Encourages Students to Set Goals, Persevere

February 17, 2015

When award-winning alum Anthony Petrelis '05 was an Education major at Lasell, he had a clearly defined goal - to become a teacher - and he stuck to it through thick and thin.

As a student, Petrelis, who last Fall received the Milken Educator Award (widely considered the Oscar of Education), endured 1.5-hour train rides from his native Medford, Mass. to get to campus and sprinted from the station to be on time for class, but the support and nurturing from Lasell professors helped him focus.

"At Lasell, every day, I would ask myself ‘What did I do well?' Things don't always happen the way you want them to," Petrelis said. "It's what you do after that makes you who you are."

His Lasell teachers, including Professor Amy Maynard, recognized the effort he put in as a student - and are thrilled he persevered.

"I'm so proud of him," Maynard said, during Petrelis' recent talk in Rosen Auditorium for the Education Department's new lecture series.

Petrelis, for his part, urged the students in the audience to take the time at Lasell to learn about themselves and what motivates them.

Through the guidance he received at Lasell, Petrelis knew that teaching in elementary school - either third, fourth or fifth grades - was his ultimate goal.

But, he also had to be flexible enough to re-set his goals several times - including accepting a different path toward to becoming an educator.

One major hurdle he eventually overcame was passing the Massachusetts state exam for teacher licensure - a requirement to be hired.

The challenges this test presented meant that Petrelis first became a football coach and a permanent substitute teacher - earning him experience and credibility in the Medford school system and among school administrators. His efforts eventually helped him garner support to help to pass the exam and then, an offer for a full-time teaching position.

"You will hit adversity, but keep focusing on your goals," Petrelis advised.

After he landed the teaching job - he re-focused his goal: to become the best teacher in his school.

Fast-forward to last Fall, when as a beloved and respected fifth grade teacher at McGlynn Elementary School in Medford, he received the Milken Educator Award.

"It's the best job in the world," he said of his experience as a teacher.

The Arlington Catholic High School grad also shared stories of lessons he learned once on the job including approaches to disciplining unruly students, when to make exceptions to the rules, and to always be himself in the classroom.

Petrelis went on to advise Lasell students to embrace the hard work associated with being a classroom teacher - because it "pays off."

"You only get paid for a certain number of hours [each day], but it's the hours you put in before and after that separates the good teachers from the great," he said.