Ashley Weselak smiling

Teacher Appreciation Week: Q&A with Alumna Ashley Weselak


For lifelong reader and writer Ashley Weselak, ’13, ’16, English education seemed like a natural career path; however, Weselak credits Buffalo State University with prompting the realization that teaching is much more than a love for content.

Weselak earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English education 7–12 through Buffalo State, where she also received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence and the President’s Medal for Outstanding Graduate Student, the highest student honor bestowed by the university. She was the first teacher education student to participate in the Anne Frank Project’s annual Rwanda visit. She was also selected as a Fulbright Student Scholar to teach in Rwanda in fall 2016, and later taught at an English immersion summer camp in Italy and international schools in Brazil and the Dominican Republic. She is currently a middle school English teacher with the Boston Public Schools.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, Weselak graciously gave us a few moments of her time to answer questions about her Buffalo State experience and outlook on teaching.

How did you know teaching was the right fit for you?

My first tutoring experience as an undergrad was at Lafayette High School. The connections I made with students from different cultures were so meaningful. I could sense the value in the work I was doing and loved observing little successes. 

Why did you choose Buffalo State?

I chose Buffalo State because of its reputation for teaching. Years later, this was validated when I met [former SUNY] Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and she remarked, “Buffalo State—the golden apple for teaching.”

Tell us about a career-defining moment.

My students at Lafayette were reading Of Mice and Men, and we were discussing the theme of friendship. I remembered learning about this in school—I also remembered how bothered I was by Curly’s wife’s lack of a name but, as a teenager, I brushed it off and focused on the friendship theme. [One of my Lafayette students] shared his discomfort about the treatment of Crooks. At that moment, I realized neither of us connected with the friendship theme, but rather how the book reflected or failed to reflect our own identities. Dr. Cercone had been teaching about inquiry-based learning and the importance of a reader’s personal response to a text, but in that moment, it clicked: I shouldn’t lecture with rote and linear curriculum, but rather build upon the analytical skills for students to decide what is intriguing about a text. With this realization, teaching became much more exciting.

What class outside of your education major provided a perspective critical for you as a teacher? 

I took a sociology class that had us visit grocery stores in different socioeconomic zones around Buffalo. One store featured a salad bar immediately upon walking in and healthy and organic options at the end of each stall. Another had sugary cereals and processed foods upon walking into the store; I had to actively search the store to find healthier options. I realized how differently the public is influenced based on socioeconomic status. It fueled my understanding of the need for me to be an equitable hand in my students’ lives.

Why should people go into teaching? 

Every day, there is something new, and I don’t just mean content. I’m always learning slang, witnessing the newest TikTok dance, or joking around with students. You form great relationships. Watching students demonstrate something you’ve taught is the best feeling. Seeing a teenager proud to show off their writing always warms my heart.

What advice do you have for new teachers?

Be patient and kind with students; some of them are facing bigger issues than you can imagine. Being a stable and positive presence can help them find predictability and success.