Senior Elementary Education major David Pollak can't remember a time growing up where he didn't want to be a teacher. With an entire family made up almost exclusively of educators, he's convinced it was always in his blood.
As a self-made photographer and cinematographer, Student Alumni Ambassador Publicity Co-Director, and I-STAR tour guide, David has kept himself busy while on campus. After graduation, David plans to become a seasoned teacher in 1-6 grade classrooms while working his way up to the administrative level and pursuing Master's and Doctorate degrees in education.
More about David
Q. What do you enjoy about your campus experience, so far?
A. My campus experience has been more than I could have ever imagined. I have been fortunate enough to have some many incredible opportunities to grow as an individual and give back to this campus that has given me so much. Serving as a Student Alumni Ambassadors Publicity CoDirector, not only do I connect current students, faculty, and alumni together through large-scale events and service opportunities, but a large part of my role is to capture and portray these events and interactions to the world through the photo and video content I create. By far, this has been my top experience on campus. In addition to this, I absolutely loved being a campus tour guide, or I-STAR. I enjoyed taking prospective and admitted students across campus on walking tours, Reporting provided by Web Services at Public Affairs | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Page 12 answering questions, making corny dad-jokes, and helping share my perspective of this amazing university.
Q. How did you know you wanted to go into the field of education?
A. I have always loved working with students. As the director of a day camp, I am responsible for 60+ campers on a day-to-day basis. My experience at this day camp, along with helping out in schools, led me to a more than natural career choice.
Q. What do you enjoy about the College of Education?
A. The College of Education is a special place. The building itself is homey— small, symmetrical, but filled with care and compassion from all faculty-members inside of it. The Education family at Illinois is a tight-knit one— students, faculty, cooperating teachers, and everyone else involved are all supportive of one another. The College of Education makes a big university feel small.
Q. Do you have a favorite professor, or course? Why?
A. In my time at Illinois, there have been countless members of the faculty, community, and even student body that have made a direct impact on my collegiate career, however one gentleman stands out above the rest. Dr. David Zola was a Clinical Professor of Educational Psychology in the College of Education, my professor for EDUC 101 during freshman year, and a legendary educator who quickly became my personal and professional mentor over the years. I knew Dr. Zola would be special in my life from the moment I first met him. In the first hour of my first college course, he spoke with a passion and energy that was unmatched— each interaction he had with any of us in the overheated Education Room 395 felt personal as if the relationship was years in the making. As the class finished, and I began to leave the room, he asked me to step aside and chat with him. He shared with me that he saw a future for me, beyond teaching. He saw me becoming a cooperating teacher, taking student teachers from the University and mentoring them. He said that he saw me as a principal, a superintendent, and then a professor at our own university. I’ll admit, I was rather shocked that my life was completely planned for me (at least in his eyes), after having known him for roughly fifty minutes, but that’s exactly who he was. He was a mentor to me, looking ten steps ahead of where I was and helping me grow into who I naturally wanted to become— whether I yet knew it or not. His confidence in me was a powerful motivator throughout my years at Illinois, and I soon realized that I wanted to emulate everything about him— I wanted to become a mentor and teacher to people in the same way he was to me. I realized that he was right— I wanted to become an active alumni, one who feels connected to the University of Illinois for decades to come; to become a cooperating teacher and take on student teachers during Reporting provided by Web Services at Public Affairs | University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Page 13 their practicum placement; and eventually become an administrator as well. I realized I wanted to do all of these things, but did not think I possessed the ability to do so without Dr. Zola’s guidance. The confidence he instilled in me is invaluable and something I will carry beyond graduation. As I move to the end of my time at Illinois (for now), I know that I am ready to take on whatever my next challenge might be thanks to his reflective questions and challenging prompts that forever remain in my head. Dr. Zola’s passing in the fall of 2018 was felt deeply throughout the entire campus community. By focusing on the impact he had on my life, and in turn the way I think about impacting others, I can carry on that same passion for the benefit of my my future students. A legacy he would be very proud of.