Linda Romano’s own high school experience was, in a word, challenging. The native of upstate New York struggled through remedial coursework as an underclassman and found that nothing in the academic arena ever came easy. But when a representative from Orange Ulster Boces Career and Technical Education (Goshen, NY) came to her school, something about the programs—particularly the health occupations education program—clicked with Linda.
“I was never a great student and had difficulty in many high school subject areas, but I remember them talking to us about Licensed Practical Nurses and Nurse Aides, and I went home and told my parents that was what I wanted to do,” says Linda. She enrolled in the program as a senior, and after graduating high school, pursued an Associate Degree in Nursing, shattering the expectations of her by teachers and family members. Soon, Linda became a Registered Nurse, starting her career on the medical-surgical floor of Tuxedo Memorial Hospital in Tuxedo, New York. She also spent time in labor and delivery. After having a child of her own, Linda moved into home healthcare, working for Elant, a nonprofit provider of long-term care solutions to patients in the Hudson Valley.
Recruited to teach
Soon, Linda was approached to teach in Elant’s home healthcare aide training program. She also started teaching in the Certified Nurse Aide program that supplied new graduates to the organization. “That school was located right on our campus, so it was very convenient, and I fell in love with teaching,” she says. After 17 years working at Elant and teaching at night, a new opportunity came Linda’s way in 2006: to help start a Health Science/Nurse Aide Training program at Newburgh Free Academy, a high school that exposes students to health-related careers like nurse aide, home health aide, physical therapy and nursing.
Linda’s first class had just 12 students. Today she has grown it to more than 250, including over 80 Certified Nurse Aide students. “There was something about this school that called to me, like I was sent here to do what I’m doing,” Linda admits. “I wanted to make a difference in my career, and here, I feel like I am.”
Earning a bachelor’s degree
Despite her career success, there was something that always bothered Linda about her own resume. “Honestly, as a faculty member here who is encouraging students to go earn bachelor’s degrees, I was embarrassed that I only had an associate degree,” she says. When Linda’s daughter began looking at colleges in 2012, she decided she should do the same. With a busy schedule, she looked for online BSN programs. American Sentinel University was one of the first schools she considered. In 2013, she started the program, graduating two years later. “American Sentinel did more for me than I could even fathom. Starting that program was the beginning of a lot of great things for me.”
College lit a new fire under Linda, and she began getting involved in her profession. She joined the New York State Health Science Educator Association (NYS HSEA). She was appointed as a board member for the NYS Association for Career and Technical Education (NYSACTE) and started presenting at career and technical education conferences around the country. Linda also started volunteering throughout her school district to make lasting improvements and is the chairperson of the school’s leadership team. In 2017, Linda was appointed president of the NYS HSEA. Recently, she was nominated as vice president of the Association for Career and Technical Education.
ACTE National Teacher of the Year 2018
Because of her work and passion for her students and their futures, Linda was named ACTE Teacher of the Year for New York in 2017-2018. That led to her being named a regional Teacher of the Year as well. And last month, Linda was named the ACTE National Teacher of the Year for 2018, selected from five finalists. “It feels like a dream that I’ve earned these recognitions, and I hope it shows that I love what I do,” says Linda, adding that her students are her inspiration. “I’m nothing without the young adults I teach. Their success is my success. I’m very, very proud of them and want to use these awards to open up doors and highlight what amazing students they are.”
These days, Linda is thinking about bolstering her own future with an MSN. “The BSN gave me confidence and really made me want more for myself,” she says. She hopes to enroll at American Sentinel in the MSN, nursing education specialization, in summer 2018. “More than anything, I want to show my students that I’m still going after what I want, and they should always, always do the same.”
Inspired by Linda’s story? A BSN is ideal for nurses who want to expand their knowledge base, become more marketable and enjoy greater career stability and mobility. Specialized knowledge forms the foundation of nursing and when you acquire new knowledge, you can apply it to nursing practice in ways that enhance patient care and improve outcomes.