Warren Charleston '19
Warren Charleston graduated in 2019 with a B.A. in English and a minor in Education. He currently works at The Fessenden School, which is a private, all-boys, day boarding school, and he attended this school for his own primary education. He teaches Cultural Geography and a Leadership class, is a “dorm-parent,” a three season coach, and does origami tutorials in his free time. Warren is going on to earn his Master’s in Education at Boston College.
What were your initial plans for after you graduated from UMass? Do they line up with what you are doing now?
“I had no plan. I had friends who were doing interviews and internships, but that wasn’t me. I had always worked at an arts camp over the summer, and I continued to work there after graduation. Through networking there, I found an open position at a private school where I ran an afterschool program. I did that for a year, and then through more networking I found my current position as a middle school Geography teacher.”
You were recently accepted into a graduate program at Boston College, can you speak a bit about that and why you decided to pursue that?
“The program is focused on educational leadership and policy. Being in the educational sphere has shown me how there’s different scaling that determines how impactful you can be as a teacher. I wanted to find a way to better figure out how schools are run. I eventually want to move up to the administrative level and impact more students, so that’s what led me to pursue this program. I’ve always been drawn to leadership roles, at my school now I’m a dorm parent and a coach for multiple sports teams.”
Is there anything particularly helpful that the UMass English Department has done to help you in your post-undergrad career?
“For sure, helping me develop the skills to critically think and to read and write at a high level. Those are invaluable skills. Particularly my creative writing classes, shoutout to Prof. Hennessy, because his poetry and short stories classes really helped me hone my communication skills. I use my words precisely and thoughtfully. My experience in the English department has helped me relate to and communicate with others very well. Having knowledge of different literary concepts has also been really helpful. Also, the English department helped me discover what types of classes I do best in, which happens to be discussion based, and those are the types of classes I teach now.”
If you could have a conversation with your sophomore year self, what would you tell yourself?
“Try harder. My priorities weren’t very straight, I was focused on trying to have fun, and if I felt like I was being restricted in any way I would always find a way to bend the rules. Even though I was always able to keep my grades up, I wish I’d tried a little harder instead of just getting by. In the end, I’m back at school now so I get another chance to get it right.”
How did your idea of what you want to do change during your undergraduate years?
“I didn’t even know I was going to be an English major when I started. I thought I was going to business, but I decided that wasn’t for me. I went back to what I knew I was good at, which was reading and writing. Being in the smaller class settings in English classes allowed me to develop really great, authentic relationships with my professors, and I think that sold me. I didn’t know what I was supposed to do with my English degree, but I knew it was giving me valuable skills that I could translate into so many different things. Being an English major prepared me for post-graduate life more than I realized at the time.”
Do you remember any particularly helpful on campus resources?
“I was really big on music, so I used to live on the third floor of the library, in the digital media lab. I had a lot of friends I met up there. We were always making music, and it was such a great experience. However, I never did any work in the library, I was always making music. I didn’t know how people did that, I just did work in my room. But I loved the digital media lab.”
Do you have any advice for English majors?
“Develop those skills. When someone doubts what you can do with an English degree, tell them ‘I can do anything I want.’ I used to get that a lot, but I think there’s endless opportunities you can create for yourself. You just have to be able to create the opportunity and the life that you want, the skills you are learning make you more than capable. Have more faith in yourself.”
Do you have any advice for seniors about to graduate?
“Don't be afraid to just jump into something. I think a lot of people want to make the “right” choice, but you don’t know if it’s right until you’re in it. Just go after something that’s attractive to you, that you gravitate towards, and if it doesn’t work out you can move onto something else. You’re not locked into every decision that you make. A year passes by faster after college. If it’s not for you, it’s temporary. Learn to take the experiences you get and use them for next step in your journey. I felt a lot of pressure after college, trying to understand where to go and what I was supposed to do. Instead of trying to pick the “right” direction, I just had to take a direction and see what came after. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself, allow yourself to make mistakes.”
Can you speak a bit about your origami hobby? How did that start, and do you bring that into the classroom?
“I definitely bring origami into the classroom. I have a whole box of origami that I make and I use it as prizes and incentives in class; the kids love it. I also teach online origami classes to kids aged 6-12. It’s an amazing experience to teach these online classes, because it’s all kids who are passionate about what you’re passionate about. It’s awesome to get that connection and relate to people on a different level. I also have a YouTube where I do tutorials. It’s called Warren Gami.”
Interview by Sarah Mulcahy, Digital Communications Intern