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WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

The student news site of Westford Academy

WA Ghostwriter

Katie Mantineo starts first year at WA as a teaching assistant

Mrs. Mantineo sitting at a table in the library.
Natalie Bearfield
Mrs. Mantineo sitting at a table in the library.

New staff member Katie Mantineo is starting her first year at Westford Academy as a teaching assistant. After working at three different schools within the Westford school district, she is ready to continue her role in a new environment. She hopes to work with and bring smiles to students each day. 

Q: What inspired you to get a degree in education?

A: My job does not require a degree in education. I have a teaching certificate and I have a degree in psychology. I was interested in psychology when I went to college, and I was required to have two minors. One was English, and the other was education, and I liked it a lot more than psychology. I really enjoyed the student teaching that I did, so I pursued it to the end. But when I graduated, there was no shortage of teachers, so there were no positions available to teach. So, I’m a teaching assistant.

Q: Did you go straight from college to becoming a teaching assistant?

A: No, I worked 20 years for a company. I did leave for a little while, and did some teaching assistance, but I worked for a company that provides nannies and sitters. So, I screened them and I placed them if they needed a sitter or a full time nanny, and I would try to find the right person for them. 

Q: What was the name of the company?

A: The Minute Women, in Lexington.

Q: If a teaching opportunity opened up in either Westford or somewhere else, would you take it?

A: No, I wouldn’t take a teaching position at this time at all, I would stick with the teaching assistance. This is what is working for me right now. I leave when [the students] leave and I have no additional responsibilities. I don’t have to grade any work, I don’t have to do any planning. So in many ways, my job is a lot easier than teachers. Sadly, my salary is not the same.

Q: Why did you choose to teach in Westford?

A: [I chose to teach here because] I live in Westford. I worked for several years in a childcare agency, and then I stayed home for several years with my children. By the time I quit work, my daughter was two and my son was five, and he was having trouble with transitions. So if I was to continue working, he’d have to do before school, half day kindergarten, extended day, and after school. It was too much to ask the poor little guy, so I quit my job. I stayed home for several years, and then of course, I was looking for something that worked well with the kids’ schedules and [this position] was perfect. 

Q: What are your kids’ names?

A: Maggie and Jamie. Maggie graduated last year, and Jamie graduated five years ago. 

Q: What do you like to do in your free time? What’s your family like?

A: I have a dog and I absolutely adore him, he is the light of my life and we do a lot together. I do a lot of hiking, walking, I like to do origami […], and I do a lot of cooking. My daughter is now at college in Florida and my son is still taking [college] classes. 

Q: Do your kids also want to do something education-related?

A: My son is interested in microbiology and he has a strong interest in infectious diseases; I can see him in a hazmat suit. My daughter is very interested in marine biology, in particular sharks and ocean ecology. They’re very science-oriented, which is different for me and different for my husband.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a career in teaching or education?

A: I think it’s one of the most noble careers out there. Sadly, it’s not a very rewarding career. I think that teachers face a lot of pushback from parents and sometimes the towns they live in. I think it’s a very complicated job, and I highly admire the people who do that. To really try to meet everyone’s needs in every class is a huge task and they’re up for it. So, I think if that’s something that you’re interested in, or [someone] is interested in, they should definitely do it. 

Q: What would you say your favorite part about your job is?

A: I have a lot of fun. Primarily because I don’t have to discipline anybody and I don’t require that your work be done. My job is to assist one or more students through their day to be able to access everything they need to access. So, I’m not a highly serious person. 

Q: What are you most looking forward to as a staff member at WA?

A: This is my fourth school here [in Westford]. I’ve worked at the Miller School, the Day School, Blanchard Middle School, and now Westford Academy. So, I’ve made a lot of transitions, which are not always my strong point, and I found that the staff here have been very friendly. I’m looking forward to simply meeting more [faculty members] and understanding who they are. 

Q: Do you have any specific goals for this year?

A: I’ve kind of nailed most of them. One was to transition and [another] was to find my way like all freshmen are doing. The freshmen are coming into a new environment, [they’re in] a new school with new teachers. I have all that, plus I didn’t bring any staff members with me, so it’s a little bit different. I’m certainly not whining about it, but it is different. So, I think I’ve nailed my goals so far. I’ve met some really nice people, I feel like I know where I am in the school, personally and location-wise. I’m looking forward to continue meeting new people and networking with them. 

Q: How have people in your life supported you and your career aspirations? 

A: I think people are, on the whole, very supportive of [my career choices]. I think that I have a rare ability to make differences in people’s lives without heroic efforts on my part. People reach out to me and they say, ‘you saw my child in this class, and they needed a smile, and you gave them it.’ This has happened several times, and I’ve only been here a few weeks. […] I don’t think I have any superpowers, I just think I’m in a unique position to spread some happiness […] to a population that can be quite stressed. Being a teacher isn’t easy, but being a student isn’t easy, either. You have to recognize that. There’s two sides to it. 

Q: Did you know you wanted to pursue a career in education while you were in high school?

A: I was thinking about being a veterinarian. […] But I think when you look into how much you need to know, it’s ridiculous. I thought, ‘I’m not going to spend the rest of my life in school. I’m not doing it.’ I think at some point, I may choose to be a wildlife rehabilitator. That is something that I’d like to do, if I get bored in my life. If my kids don’t need me anymore, and shockingly, I have free time, that would be something that I would love to train to do. 

Q: So you like spending time with animals?

A: Oh yeah, I have a dog. We’ve had a bird, we’ve rescued a red squirrel, we’ve had a sugar glider, some cats. It’s always been a part of my life, to have animals around me, and I like the thought of helping and releasing animals. 

Q: What’s your dog’s name?

A: Colter. Colter was the name of a famous hunting dog in Mississippi and he is a rescue from Mississippi. He’s about six years old. 

Q: What advice would you offer to high school students that are trying to figure out what they want to do with their lives?

A: I think just be open minded. I think there’s some societal pressure just to know what you’re going to do […] going into college and I don’t think that’s true. I think a good quality university will make you take a wide variety of courses anyway so that you have that option. For students entering college, the average number of career changes of majors is really two, maybe three times that [a student] will change their major. So I think it’s just to be open minded to lots of things and not be stressed if they don’t know. They just don’t need to know yet. 

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About the Contributors
Natalie Bearfield, Staff Writer
Hello! My name is Natalie Bearfield and I am a staff writer for the WA Ghostwriter. This is my first year in journalism and I’m looking forward to writing articles and interviewing people for our school newspaper. Along with writing, I enjoy listening to music, reading, and spending time with my friends and family. 
Aarshia Bhattacharyya, Staff Writer
Hi! My name is Aarshia Bhattacharyya, and I’m a freshman staff writer for the WA Ghostwriter! This is my first year on the Ghostwriter, and I’m so excited to be able to use my love for writing to contribute to the paper! I joined the newspaper because I love writing about stories I care about and am interested in. In my free time, I love baking, reading, writing, spending time with my friends, painting, and listening to music. Outside of school, I do dance and swim, two of my favorite sports! 

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