November 16, 2021

Faculty Q&A: Catherine Brophy

Brophy is a Teacher Prep/Education Program Coordinator for GBCC’s Teacher Preparation Program

Catherine Brophy is an innovative and creative leader in the field of education, with more than 30 years of experience across educational settings in New Hampshire, and expertise in the use of technology to expand and enhance inclusion and equity. Her skills proved timely during the pandemic, when Great Bay moved to remote learning, and will be vital going forward as the college blends hybrid learning in its efforts to train the teachers of tomorrow.

Brophy, who lives in Stratham, coordinates Great Bay’s teacher preparation program. She has a background in K-12 education with teaching experience at middle- and elementary-schools and has worked at the district level integrating technology. She is certified as a principal in New Hampshire and spent several years creating online and blended professional development content for Heinemann Publishing of Portsmouth. She is also a Google Certified Instructor, who understands the role of technology in building healthy learning communities.

The education program at Great Bay prepares students to transfer to four-year schools and to work as paraeducators. Students spend much of the first year in the field observing, and in the second year they choose an area of specialty, including math, science, social science, English, foreign language, special education, and elementary education.

Brophy has been with Great Bay for three years, and recently spoke about career and the state of education today.

What brought you to Great Bay?

“I was looking for opportunities and happened to see that Great Bay had an opening. I thought it would be a really good fit for me. Earlier in my career, I taught at Plymouth State College, and Nashua Community College, so I had some experience at the community college level. I have always enjoyed working with teachers and young adults, sharing expertise and knowledge, and trying to make the world better one teacher at a time.”

What are the strengths of the teacher prep program at Great Bay?

“It’s a very strong preparation program for students who want to transfer into a four-year university. They are provided a solid background in the foundations of education, and we also teach Intro to Exceptionalities, and within those two courses students are required to have 50 hours of field-observation experience in a K-12 setting. They get a lot of exposure to best teaching practices on the Seacoast.

I am able to bring my connections to the many school districts I have come in contact with over my years to really connect students with teachers and administrators who are at the top of their profession. New Hampshire has excellent schools. What our students are seeing when they go into those classrooms is very good teaching. It’s very inspiring.”

Who inspired you?

“I come from a family of educators, though not in a traditional sense. My grandmother many years ago had one of the first day-cares out of her home in Massachusetts, educating the little ones. My uncle was a high school business teacher. My mother worked with special education students for many years, and my daughter has followed in her footsteps and is working in a high school as a special educator right now.”

What are your classes size like now?

“Classes are now pretty much full, between 15 and 20 students per class, which I consider a full class load. And the students I am seeing are very enthusiastic about wanting to be a teacher, in spite of the negativity that teachers are experiencing all around them. The students at Great Bay are there because they want to be there. They want to get a degree and go work in a field of their choice. That’s inspiring.

I feel that teaching is a leadership position right now in New Hampshire society, and one of service. Most students echo that sentiment. They want a way to give back and help children and families. They are not doing it for the money or to promote themselves. They just want to make a difference in their communities.”

Many of your students are already working in the field, correct, because the demand for teachers right now is so great?

“That’s right. I have many students working in schools during the day and who are finishing their coursework at night, online. There is so much demand. Local school districts have been very supportive and flexible to the extent they can be.”

This remains a good time to become a teacher?

“It’s an excellent time. I don’t have exact numbers, but New Hampshire has had a lot of teacher retirements and more will be retiring this year. Many teachers had been staying in their careers because it’s a good career and they love their jobs, but these last two years have been very difficult for a lot of people, and many have made the choice that it is a good time to retire and a good time to let the next generation of teachers take over.

Why become a teacher now?

The teacher education programs in New Hampshire provide the highest quality education experiences I have seen throughout my career. It is more important than ever to encourage students of all ages to become educators for the future. All of my students have been inspired by one or more great teachers in their lives. They will now go on to inspire the next generation of innovators, scientists, artists, writers, and trades people.