Bank Street College of Education: Integral to Building A Better
Pola Rosen, Ed.D.
clattering of the silver and excited voices of graduates and faculty
suddenly stopped at the gala commencement luncheon as President
Augusta Kappner began to speak. In her customary warm manner,
she congratulated the 337 masters students who were about to embark
on their new careers. Dean Jon Snyder followed quipping about
"not leading the graduates but being led by them." He
introduced honorary doctoral recipient Dr. Michele Fine who proceeded
to congratulate Bank Street for "daring to imagine what's
possible;" she then cast shame on our country for depriving
public education of funds while more prisons are being built.
Her statistics were staggering: in California 40-60 per cent of
teachers have emergency certification. In Seward Park High School,
there are 1194 students in the 9th grade and 137 in the 12th grade.
In John Jay High School there are 1335 students in the 9th grade
and 145 in the 12th grade. According to Fine, "it's nobody's
fault and it's everyone's responsibility." Fine credited
President Kappner with ensuring that a college education should
be a right for everyone including prisoners in Bedford Hills,
New York. Expressing her outrage for social injustice, Fine stressed
to the assembly, "that's your work when you graduate."
Citing teachers who dare to fight for fiscal equity, Fine concluded
that "there is no peace without justice. May we all grow
up to be half the woman that Gussie Kappner is." Two honorary
doctorates were awarded to husband and wife team Dr. Mindy Fullilove,
Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at Columbia University
College of Physicians and Surgeons and Dr. David Fullilove, Associate
Dean of the Columbia School of Public Health for their seminal
work on HIV/Aids. Dr. Mindy Fullilove expressed how special this
graduation was in being the first to take place after 9/11. While
she underscored social justice as being high on the agenda, she
noted that "the great thing about this luncheon was the family
of Bank Street giving gratitude for the bounty that learning gives
us in the company of one another."
Dr. Fullilove spoke about the importance of "holding the
community together and then aiming for an educated populace."
The fourth honorary doctorate was awarded to David Wolkenberg,
an illustrious teacher of children at Bank Street for many years.
He spoke of teaching as the most "fun and rewarding work
that anyone can do." Of primary importance in early childhood
education, according to Wolkenberg, is the relationship of trust
and profound respect between teacher and child as well as teacher
In 1916, Lucy Sprague Mitchell, founder of Bank Street College
of Education said, "We as teachers are integral to building
a better world." These words have even greater significance
in 2002 and are clearly the mission at Bank Street. Auguri to
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