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'Teacher Skills' Translate Beyond the Classroom

Posted: November 20, 2013

Three of SUNY Buffalo State’s most distinguished alumni—Evelyn Lieberman, ’66; Carolyn Lamm, ’70; and Bill Cleary, ’69, ’73—have something in common: they all trained to be classroom teachers, then used their “teacher skills” to find immense success in other professions.

All three agree that the thorough preparation they received at Buffalo State to be a teacher helped propel them to the top of their chosen fields. In short, they say that “teacher skills” translate beyond the classroom.

“Preparing to be a teacher is very helpful for any career. You learn how to talk in front of a group. It’s great preparation for addressing a large audience—sometimes a hostile audience—and you learn how to take criticism. You learn how to present with enthusiasm—enthusiasm is contagious. I learned all of that at Buffalo State, and it has been very useful in my life,” said Lieberman, director of communications and external affairs at the Smithsonian Institution, and White House deputy chief of staff in the Clinton Administration.

After graduating from Buffalo State, Lieberman taught English at Hicksville, New York, High School for four years until moving to Washington, D.C. There, she changed careers and became a public relations professional. Eventually, she was selected for White House duty.

Lieberman received Buffalo State's Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2000.

Read more in 1300 Elmwood.

“I loved my time at Buffalo State. It provided an excellent foundation for my career. Majoring in education and minoring in English, I learned how to write and analyze writing, and appreciate other perspectives and cultures,” said Lamm, a partner and international arbitration, litigation, and trade lawyer in the Washington, D.C., office of the global law firm White & Case LLP, and a past president of the American Bar Association. “Being trained as a teacher has been invaluable to my law career. There is a significant amount of teaching skill needed in law. You have to be precise when conveying the facts, and you have to be able to clearly explain your case to judges. And, in both law and teaching, you have to be motivated by the desire to change things for the better.”

Lamm enrolled at Buffalo State to become a teacher, but as graduation approached, she recognized her true calling and applied to—and was accepted at—the University of Miami (Florida) School of Law.

Lamm received the honorary doctor of laws from the State University of New York in 2012.

Read Lamm's alumni profile.

“Teaching anthropology served as a great preparation for marketing. If you can begin to understand how individuals and groups of people live and what matters to them, you can begin to understand their habits as consumers,” said Cleary, owner of Cleary & Partners, a California-based strategic marketing, branding, and technology services firm, and the former consumer marketing manager at Apple. “In those early days of Apple, Steve Jobs and others loved to find employees who were not the typical M.B.A. types—they liked liberal arts grads who could think about things in different ways. They loved that I was an anthropology teacher.”

After earning his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in secondary education (with a concentration in cultural anthropology) from Buffalo State, Cleary taught American history, anthropology, and African American studies at Lake Shore High School in Angola, New York, from 1972 to 1978. During off-hours, he worked as an advertising copywriter. In 1978, he shifted careers and went on to marketing success in New York City and Silicon Valley.

Cleary received Buffalo State’s Distinguished Alumnus Award in 2013.

Read Cleary's alumni profile and watch his presentation “How Apple and Steve Jobs Changed Marketing.”


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