When Cliff Hagen left the College of Staten Island in 2001, he had three degrees. A Bachelor’s in Sociology and Anthropology in 1991, a Bachelor’s in History with a minor in Philosophy in 1994, and a Master’s degree in Special Education in 2001. Now Cliff teaches at IS 72 The Police Officer Rocco Laurie School as a special education teacher.

“Working full time in Manhattan during the day and attending classes each evening and some weekends, I learned to embrace the struggles of working hard and remaining focused on my long-term goals,” said Hagen. “As a teacher of special education, now in my 26th year, those parameters of success, hard work, and staying the course, allow me to remain focused on daily lessons while supporting the progress of each student through the years.”

While Cliff was here at CSI to prepare him for his life of teaching, he wrote for the College newspaper and became editor-in-chief. He learned the valuable lesson of good time management at the College, which is helping him in his teaching today.

Along the way at CSI, he had some impactful people helping him, especially faculty members.

“Professor of Anthropology Gerald Sider encouraged me and set me on a road to confidence,” said Hagen. “He let me know, as no one ever had, that I am smart.”

One other faculty member had a huge impact on his teaching, specifically.

“Professor of Education Effi Simmons shined a bright light on the immediate impact of strong teachers,” said Hagen. “And the significance of the work we do.”

If you are a teacher or know a teacher, you know it can be a tough profession. Hagen says when asked about the problems of teaching today, those issues are baked into the career, but that working as a teacher is not for the faint of heart. He goes on to say that from the time the day starts to the end, teachers have a lot on their plates. It’s because of this that teachers spend too much time at home planning, differentiating, and reconsidering lessons for the next day, and that takes away from work/life balance and also grading.

We cannot mention the hurdles of teaching without the positive aspects, and Hagen says despite the long hours, sacrifice, and the grind, teaching is very rewarding.

“Teachers nurture students and see results, sometimes sooner, sometimes later,” he said. “Teaching is a career path that leads to a comfortable retirement after three decades of service to the community.”

Hagen has some advice for freshman coming into CSI as he did in 1987. “I suggest that new college students accept the changing nature of working, of learning, and of living. Dual degrees offer more opportunity than a focused course of study,” said Hagen. “Further, the interconnectedness of disciplines continues to grow closer. Take advantage of opportunities to diversify your studies.”

Besides teaching, Cliff also manages Staten Island’s largest, oldest volunteer environmental organization, Protectors of Pine Oak woods and has also won the world series of birding. Cliff Hagen is a very well-rounded graduate of CSI and has found a way to teach and manage his time to do other things outside of work which is a testament of a great CSI education.