a New Group of Fellows
are the most important people in the world,” said Dr. Thelma Baxter,
Superintendent of District 5 in New York, addressing a new cohort
of Teaching Fellows at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black
Culture. Approximately 30 of the 1,000 future teachers will be
doing coursework at the Bank Street College of Education and entering
Baxter’s district this summer. “Too often, people have written
off District 5,” she said. “We have to change that perception.”
A good teacher in District 5, or anywhere, not only has to be
trained, but also has to care about young people, and most importantly,
be committed to the community. “There is no place where the issues
of equity and social justice are more apparent than in education,”
said Dr. Linda Levine, acting Co-Dean, along with Barbara Coleman,
of Bank Street College. It is for this reason that she, and many
of those welcoming the Fellows, stressed community connections.
Levine urged Fellows to visit local bookstores, churches and especially,
to use the Schomburg Center.
Bank Street is one of 13 institutions providing training and coursework
for Teaching Fellows, a Board of Education program to train new
teachers. Part of the application process included a one-on-one
interview. Levine was present during many of the interviews with
principals in District 5. To her, the most interesting candidates
were those who were respectful of young people and who exhibited
a cultural responsiveness to the community. “They were very good
listeners,” she said. “They absolutely wanted to do work that
is meaningful, even if they take a pay cut,” she continued, referring
to the fact that many Teaching Fellows are career-changers.
work with people who have not been in the classroom is very exciting,”
said Denise Prince, one of four Bank Street advisors who will
be working with the Fellows. She and her colleagues will be teaching
courses, having weekly meetings and visiting classrooms throughout
the Fellows’ tenure at Bank Street. She explained how life experiences
help these new Fellows look at “people related” issues. “A 20-year-old
does not have their same kind of life experience.”
Kiersten Greene comes to the program with experience working for
children, both as an educator at a residential treatment center
for foster kids, and then in the development office at the City
Light Youth Theater. “I knew that I wanted to work with kids,”
she explained about her goals after graduating Princeton University
in 1999. The Teaching Fellows program has offered her a way of
getting into the classroom quickly, bypassing “red tape.” “This
program is going to guide me into the classroom,” she explained.
As for her work experience affecting her teaching, “I definitely
benefited from knowing what I don’t want to do,” she said, laughing.
Greene and the other Fellows are in for “superior preparation”
from Bank Street, according to Baxter, a Bank Street alumna. “For
some people last year, it was a culture shock,” she said about
the first cohort of Fellows in District 5. Ideally, every teacher
would have a chance to be an assistant teacher before taking on
a class of her own. “That’s really what student teaching is about,”
is difficult to get through schooling without being affected by
teachers, either negatively or positively,” said Dr. Suzanne Carothers,
a professor at NYU’s School of Education, who addressed the Fellows.
With the support of an institution like Bank Street and the welcome
of District 5, this new group of Fellows will be hard pressed
not to be positive influences. #
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