At the end of high school, Max Venia was second-guessing his initial plan to go to college to become a veterinarian.
The tough decision to change his career path led him directly to The University of Toledo, where Venia determined that he could create the most impact as a future educator — just like his mother, a kindergarten teacher.
“In my career tech class in high school, we completed a senior project and my teacher recommended that I take animals we had for our program into nearby elementary schools,” Venia said. “I fell in love with teaching right there. It was through my love of animals that I discovered my passion for teaching.”
Four years later, Venia will graduate this May with a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education from UToledo’s Judith Herb College of Education.
During his time as a Rocket, he completed four student teaching experiences in the Toledo area — including three within Toledo Public Schools. Now wrapping up his final student teaching placement in a third-grade classroom at Larchmont Elementary, Venia is experiencing firsthand what it is like to have his own classroom.
Education students in their final semester manage the classroom completely on their own including teaching lessons and staying on a schedule — all with oversight from the cooperating teacher.
“Student teaching has been a big change because I am there five days a week and only have class one night a week,” Venia said. “Coming in as the student teacher, it’s not your classroom so you have to go off what your cooperating teacher put in place. You have to figure out where you fit into the classroom, help the students get used to your teaching style and manage their behaviors.”
Dr. Rhonda Aguiton, assistant lecturer in the Judith Herb College of Education, described Venia with three words — passion, drive and fireball.
“It has been truly an honor to see Max’s growth over the past three years,” Aguiton said. “He has evolved into an advocate for all students and who is ambitious to fight for all of his students, no matter who they are, what they look like or what they’re going through in their lives.”
Max is going to impact many students’ lives and do great things in the field of education. He is going to be a force in making change and a difference in society.”
Outside of student teaching, Venia is a member of numerous honor societies and Epsilon Alpha Phi — a co-ed education fraternity — where he is the current president. He also has been a guest speaker at numerous events for the college, which is an opportunity that undergraduate students rarely experience.
“I’ve gotten better at being professional in handling multiple situations at once,” Venia said. “As president of Epsilon Alpha Phi, a lot was thrown at me and I was in charge of everything. Being able to navigate that and keeping my personal and professional lives separate was the biggest growth that I’ve had.”
His biggest advice for future Rockets is to reach out and get involved in organizations as soon as possible.
“I came to UToledo thinking ‘Oh, maybe I’ll wait a year to get involved,’ but I’m really thankful for joining my first semester because it made me feel more at home on campus.”
Venia said he plans to continue to make a difference in students’ lives through teaching in the Toledo area.