When Elizabeth Grafer received a call from her former ESBOCES photography teacher encouraging her to apply for a teaching position, it put her on a career path she never considered. Grafer attended the ESBOCES Photography Program for two years when she was in high school and even won the national SkillsUSA competition in her category. Photography was her passion and CTE gave her the opportunity to explore it as a possible profession. After high school she earned her Associate in Commercial Photography and worked at a Long Island studio doing children and family portraits.
Eight years and three children later, Grafer left the studio due to the long hours and commute, and returned to school to earn her Bachelor’s in Human Relations and then a Master’s in School Counseling. “I love working with children,” Grafer said, “and I was thinking ahead. I wanted a career that worked with my children’s schedules.” Grafer had been in job search mode for a year after completing her Masters when her former teacher told her about an opening at ESBOCES for a photography instructor. “I jumped on the opportunity. I was a little regretful about leaving photography behind. I wanted my own studio but the timing wasn’t right with three young children. I felt this opportunity was the perfect marriage of my skills and my education,” she said.
Today, Grafer’s classroom is a haven for fledgling photographers and serves a place where they can explore their creativity, hone their talents, and build confidence in themselves. She explains that it’s not uncommon for young artists to feel out of place in high school and she celebrates their personal and esthetic growth as they move through the program. “This is a place where they can fit in,” she said. Additionally, since her program encompasses both first and second year students, she often has the more experienced ones work with the newer students. This reinforces their skills and allows her to identify anyone who may have what it takes to one day become a teacher of CTE, pointing out that they can use their expertise to travel yet another path, as she did.