Caston Binger is originally from Niagara Falls, New York. He went to LaSalle Senior High School where he played varsity basketball and went on to win the New York State Class A Championship in 1995 and 1996. Caston studied at SUNY Cortland, the State University of New York, and also played on the men’s basketball team there. That team won the State University of New York Athletic Conference (SUNYAC) championship in 2000, as well as making a ‘Sweet 16’ Division lll appearance. Having had so many fantastic and memorable experiences through school and school athletics, Caston Binger decided to study and pursue a career in Education. He earned a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and then a Master’s degree in Educational Supervision and Administration.
For the past 15 years, Caston Binger has been an elementary school classroom teacher for the Rochester City School District. He has recently taken on a leadership role as a Teacher on Special Assignment for his elementary school. While he is no longer teaching in the classroom, his new role allows him to support all students in the school in a new capacity. In addition, he works collaboratively with his building principal and other school staff to foster a safe, supportive, and inclusive learning community that contributes to the academic achievement for all students.
Recently, Caston Binger decided to go back to school and in May of 2021, graduated from Niagara University with a second Master’s degree, this one focusing on School Leadership. Caston also takes great pride in the lifelong relationships he has been able to cultivate and maintain throughout his years in education. He has been able to network with community leaders, local businesses, and other school administrators. Caston is currently being mentored by a school district superintendent, and he is grateful to be able to have someone at this level of leadership to support him, provide guidance, and give advice as he moves forward in his career.
Where did the idea for your career come from?
When I was in high school, one of my first jobs was as a youth counsellor at a local YMCA, and one of my responsibilities in that role was to work with students in the after-school program. I really enjoyed working with the students, and that was part of what motivated me to consider teaching and a career in education. I moved to Rochester, New York after accepting my first full time teaching position that was offered to me by the Rochester City School District. I have been a classroom teacher there for over 15 years and have taught 3rd grade through 6th grade. Now, I have been able to become a Teacher on Special Assignment, a role that allows me to support students across the whole elementary school and gives me exposure to important issues of school leadership.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
I believe that there is no typical day in the field of education. No two days are alike. Especially when you’re supporting others in a leadership role. There are days when I spend time observing classroom lessons and providing teachers with valuable feedback, while other days may consist of various instructional meetings and discussions around school improvement. On rare occasions, there are days I have to manage a crisis. Those days can be challenging and demand more time. You just never know when those moments will pop up and present themselves, so I have to come in prepared every day.
I find that my workdays are most productive when I leave my office and explore the school building to interact with the students and staff members. I try my best to make myself visible during student arrival in the morning and at dismissal in the afternoon. This gives me an opportunity to talk to parents. I also visit classrooms throughout the day and converse with students during their lunch periods. I believe that these authentic interactions allow me to learn more about the students and build stronger bonds with them. In addition, these interactions give me a better sense of the mood and school climate.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I bring my ideas to life by presenting them to my building principal and our leadership team. This is a diverse group of individuals who will give me their input and unique perspective. I acknowledge that it’s not always easy to do, but I believe that if an idea is good enough it will make others want to invest their time and energy into making it a reality. Once you get buy-in from all parties concerned, it’s very important to work collaboratively and utilize the feedback from others. I’ve learned that this approach fosters a sense of unity and shared responsibility.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I’m not sure if I would consider this a trend, but I’m really excited to see more schools and districts put a spotlight on cultural responsiveness in the classroom. I also appreciate the discussions that are taking place around inclusivity, social injustices, and the economic inequalities that students and their families face on a day-to-day basis. These are incredibly important issues that have been, if not neglected, then perhaps improperly addressed for a very long time. It’s really encouraging how that is changing.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Reading is one habit that makes me more productive at my job. I believe that the best leaders are constant and consistent learners. In addition to attending seminars, professional development meetings and getting hands-on experiences from my job, I still read every day. I believe that reading introduces me to new ideas, strategies, and practices within my field. Establishing good reading habits has allowed me to grow and succeed as a professional, and it is a habit I try to instill in the students I work with, as well.
What advice would you give your younger self?
If I could give advice to my younger self, I would advise a younger Caston to surround himself with like-minded individuals who are going to support his ideas and goals, as well as keep him grounded and humble. I would encourage my younger self not to be afraid to ask for help when needed. Additionally, I would advise him to start investing money in real estate and buying shares of companies in the stock market whenever he accumulates extra money.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
That I get really nervous before all of my public speaking engagements. Although it may not appear so outwardly, believe me; that is what is happening on the inside.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Proofread your emails before you send them. Giving each correspondence a simple once-over before hitting the ‘send’ button has prevented me from distributing emails with grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors many times in the past. It’s even stopped me from distributing bad information once or twice—mostly with regards to the dates and times of meetings. All in all, no harm can come from proofreading emails and it may prevent some professional embarrassment.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Being proactive and taking the initiative to get involved and participate in various leadership projects has definitely helped me grow in my career. This approach has allowed me to gain exposure to authentic leadership experiences, as well as making the acquaintance of many colleagues and future friends.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I wouldn’t necessarily consider this a failure, but one year I inherited a group of students who had extremely low New York state test scores from the previous school year. My goal as their teacher was to raise these test scores. To overcome this challenge, I had to do a data analysis from their previous year test results. I was able to pinpoint the areas my students needed support in. I focused on improving those areas of weakness and using different classroom teaching strategies to improve their skills. When they took their next New York state test, 85% of my students received a passing score.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I always recommend getting involved in something that you are passionate about or else I don’t believe you will have much success. You need to be invested in what you are doing emotionally and mentally because that will drive you to work towards success. My twin brother and I started working on renovating homes and flipping investment properties some years back. We both have a passion for this kind of work and that is one of the main reasons why it has worked out well for us.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My nephew recently turned 10 years old and as a birthday present, I went to a local pet store and bought him ‘Glofish’ to put in his fish aquarium. It cost about $90 USD for ten fish. These fish were a vibrant fluorescent color, a color very similar to a pink highlighter marker. My nephew really seemed to enjoy his present. The fish were a unique addition to his fish tank.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
Canva is one piece of software that helps me be more productive. Canva is an online graphic design platform that has many functions. It allows users to create media content such as logos, posters, flyers and presentations. I use it primarily to create sleek and professional looking newsletters that I distribute and share with parents on a weekly basis. I recently used it to create flyers for a virtual science fair that our school was hosting. I also used the software recently to update my resume and cover letter.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
I would recommend the book A Promised Land, by former President Barack Obama. Regardless of anyone’s political affiliation, I believe this book is a must-read. It is comprehensive, balanced, and very insightful. I learned a lot from this book, and I believe that this book will be read by generations to come.
What is your favorite quote?
“If you don’t go after what you want, you’ll never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”— Nora Roberts
● Take advantage of opportunities to find mentoring relationships.
● Choose work that you are passionate about and then invest in it to ensure success.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.