We begin a new feature in “More Good News” titled “Where Are They Now.” It will highlight some of the “Next Generation” young people we have featured over the past 10 years. This issue catches up with Hayley Oliver, who we featured in the Fall 2014 issue.
It’s been a little over six years since you were last featured in “More Good News.” How would you describe your life now compared to back then?
Looking back on where I was six years ago is very surreal. I was still in high school and not sure what I wanted to be doing once I graduated. I now have a college degree and a full-time job.
You graduated in May from Le Moyne College with a bachelor’s degree in English Literature and Adolescent/Special Education. You are pursuing your master’s degree at Utica College and are a full-time teacher working with eighth-grade special education students. Why did you pursue this career path?
I initially was drawn to teaching because I knew I wanted to be an English major and do something with literature. The more I thought about teaching, the more right it felt. I had always liked the idea of being a teacher, but never thought I had it in me to do it. After I started doing some field work and eventually student teaching, I knew I found the right path.
What are the challenges and rewards working with special education students?
Working with special education students is filled with great reward and great challenge. In one day of teaching I can have a moment that I know will stick with me forever, and another that makes me question everything. I think it takes a great deal of patience and love for my students, and I simply have to remind myself every day that I am making a difference. I am there to help them to grow, learn and succeed, and it’s an honor to work with them every day.
Your final year of college must have been very challenging, coping with the pandemic and remote learning. Describe how you were able to manage during that time.
As soon as the pandemic hit in full swing, I was about to switch to my second student teaching site. I was thrown headfirst into teaching during a pandemic while I was supposed to be practicing my skills and truly seeing if I could do this. It required a great deal of effort and faith that everything would work out in the end. I feel that all of these experiences have made me a better student, educator and overall person.
With COVID-19 still a major concern, describe the challenges of being a special-ed teacher and still going to school.
It takes a great deal of patience to be a special education teacher during hybrid schooling. There is a lot of extra planning that takes place, but the biggest challenge is helping the students cope. Many of them do not understand why they need to be doing all of these new protocols and schedules we now have in place. They have a hard time keeping their mind in school-mode, and its really about keeping them grounded and focused on their studies.
When you were in high school, you were active in theater and acting. Have you been able to continue to pursue those interests?
To an extent, yes. While I was in college I tried to be as active as I could in the theater and music programs. During my freshman year I was able to be the assistant stage manager to the biggest of the spring productions. I was a member of the Le Moyne College Chamber Choir for a few semesters. I also was a member of the campus ministry choir “Joyful Noise.”
When you were in high school, our parish was a special place for you. What were some of your fondest memories of that time, and now that you’re older, how has your love of the parish matured?
Some of my fondest memories of our parish are the Christmas Eve Mass. It is one of the highlights of the holiday for me. Something about being up in the choir loft and hearing everyone’s voices together in song is so beautiful. I think as I have gotten older and had more experiences, my faith in general has deepened and my appreciation for how amazing our parish is.
In 2014, you said you pray by having conversations with God. Have those conversations taken on a deeper meaning now?
As we all get older, our prayers become deeper as we realize the truth of our lives and what we hold closest to our hearts. I think I have taken on a more mature outlook of the world and my prayers have reflected this.
Has your life taken the path you envisioned, or have you been guided down a different road?
For the most part, yes. The plans that I had made right before I left high school were dreams I hoped of achieving, and I am proud of what I have been able to accomplish in that time.
What has been the biggest change between 16-year-old Hayley in 2014 and now 20-something Hayley?
The biggest change has been my confidence. I was, and still am, a very shy and introverted person. As I have gotten older there were things about myself I always wanted to be. My faith over the last six years has truly helped me to grow into the person I always hoped I would be. I would hope that 16-year-old Hayley would be proud of the woman I am today.
Family: Don and Grace Oliver.
Education: New Hartford High School, Le Moyne College, Utica College.
Things I like to do in my spare time: Spend time with friends and family, read books, being crafty.
Favorite book: “A Court of Thorns & Roses.”
Favorite movie: “Sound of Music.”
Favorite TV show: “Game of Thrones.”
Favorite musician or musical genre: Young the Giant / alternative or Broadway.