Linda Ferrara rattles off a list of previous employers that would be the envy of many seeking to make a place for themselves in corporate America.
30 Rock? The Queens, N.Y., native was an executive assistant for RCA in the famed skyscraper. She’s also worked for the CEO of Bloomingdales on 3rd Avenue, Manhattan-based Cooking Light and Southern Living magazines and Burson-Marsteller on Park Avenue.
Ferrara brings all of that professional experience into the classroom at Tidewater Community College. She teaches communications, multiple levels of keyboarding, records and database management and specialized software classes for students working toward TCC’s Associate of Applied Science in Administrative Support Technology. She also teaches English composition on the Chesapeake Campus.
“I love when the students get it,” said Ferrara, who’s been with the college for the last 15 years. “I love to teach in a way that creates a low anxiety environment. I’m very one-on-one with students. I try to teach the concept behind what we’re doing, especially if it’s related to technology. I try to teach them why they’re doing what they’re doing.”
Ferrara earned her bachelor’s in English at Baruch College and later a master’s in occupational and technical education with 18 credit hours in English from Old Dominion University.
She doesn’t teach with a one-size-fits-all approach. In her keyboarding and software classes, Ferrara assesses each student’s level and tailors assignments to the individual. Some of her students have never used a mouse; others have advanced skills.
“I don’t overwhelm anybody with assignments,” she said. “I gear assignments toward what will challenge the students and want to see quality work not quantity.”
Ferrara particularly enjoys teaching during the summer months, noting, “Those students are really invested in the process.”
In teaching business communication, Ferrara shares her New York City stories from working as an executive assistant back when taking the No. 7 train into the city was a regular part of her routine.
“You have to dress the part,” she said. “New York, especially, they want everything yesterday. It’s fast paced and competitive and sometimes you have to ‘fake it ’til you make it.’”
Teaching students to effectively communicate is Ferrara’s top priority no matter the class. “Communication is key to get promoted in the business world,” she said. “The basis for everything is learning how to write and how to speak. Students need to know how to use the technology for the message to get out there and be comprehensive.”
While Ferrara often returns to New York to get her “bagel and NY pizza fix” along with visiting extended family of hers and husband Mike’s, she regards Chesapeake as home now.
She enjoys spending time with her three children: Rebecca, 18, Daniel, 15, and Cassidy, 12. She’s also a power tools buff who would trade being in the kitchen for the garage any day.
Nearly two decades at TCC has been time well spent, she said.
“I like that the students are all different ages and they come for different reasons. I feel like a lot of them come here because they want to be here. I like the variety of ages and backgrounds,” Ferrara said. “TCC is a real community and I love being part of it.”