When she started her career as a kindergarten teacher, Simone Robers could not have imagined where her life journey would take her! Simone now has nearly a decade of experience in education research, analysis, and project management, and she is CNA Education's expert on school crime and safety. Since joining the team in 2015, Simone has helped develop and execute the domestic business strategy and manage operations. In this interview, Simone shares about her journey from the classroom to the research field and why her work means so much to her.
Q: What made you want to become a researcher?
A: It might sound odd, but as far as I can remember things just fell into place for me. I went to vocational school in Germany to become a Kindergarten teacher. The training and schooling to become a certified Kindergarten teacher takes five years. After that I wanted to expand and be able to work with older children and possibly adults too, so I worked as a full-time Kindergarten teacher for an additional two years, while at the same time going back to college for a degree in social work. Life happened, so through personal circumstances I moved to the United States in 2005 and I still hadn’t had enough, so I decided to add on an undergraduate degree in Sociology and Psychology and then a graduate degree in Sociology. The theme I see throughout my education is that I love working with people and I have a natural curiosity to study people and their behavior. Personalities and behaviors are fascinating to me, especially what society considers being inappropriate or deviant behaviors. School crime and safety felt like a natural fit to establish myself in a career field that fascinates and engages me on a personal level while the research components allow for my work to have a meaningful impact.
Q: Through your work, what is the most interesting/unexpected/important finding you have discovered?
A: The most important finding or realization was my level of passion for the topic of school crime and safety, particularly bullying victimization. Most interesting and unexpected initially were the high rates of incidents of school violence in K-12 settings. Having researched victimization for a decade, I can’t say anything related to violent behavior is surprising or unexpected to me. I focus on the slow but steady decreasing rates of violence in schools. Society for obvious reasons is aware of the extreme and more isolated cases of school violence, especially school shootings, but the data show that overall incidents of school violence have decreased over time. Ideally this problem would not exist at all, but as a researcher I focus on a realistic assessment of the situation and on further improvement in systems so we can assure schools continue to become safer.
Q: What is your favorite/least favorite part of research?
A: Our schools should be a safe space for our children. We study causes of school violence and develop prevention programs, some of which have proven successful. Violence in any form is devastating to me and to learn that it begins so early in life and affects children in K-12 settings at such high percentages is maddening. I have children of my own, and I personally suffered from being the victim of bullying at an early age. I can say I grew into a strong and confident person but there were bumps along the way. The problem exists and it’s unlikely it will go away, so it is our job to equip our children with the necessary skills to succeed in school settings that might not be ideal. The frustrating part is related to the ebb and flow in the attention this topic receives. If there is a school shooting, public and political interest is high for a while, but then it dies down. My job as a researcher is to have a continued interest and to translate what the data say for various audiences and keep telling a comprehensive story to support continued improvement and make our schools safer.
Q: If you were not a researcher, what would you do for a living?
A: The natural answer to this question is I would not want to do anything else. That said, it is the topic of victimization I am passionate about. Criminology or crime scene investigation sounds thrilling, but I don’t see that far removed from the label of “researcher.” Apart from that, I am in management, which I am also extremely passionate about – same theme though: working with people and personalities. I feel pretty good about the path my career has taken, and I am not done yet; the exact label or job title is less important to me, as long as I keep growing and learning.
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