A new generation of educators

Mount students thankful for their first taste of teaching
November 21, 2012


Student Teachers 2012

LEFT | Robert Kemp, a Mount Saint Mary College student teacher, answers questions during an exercise in Spanish at Marlboro High School. RIGHT | Student teacher Erin Bendul holds a final review with Newburgh Free Academy students before a math quiz.

Robert Kemp’s love of teaching, and his students’ love of learning, lead to a very lively classroom.

His placement as a student teacher at Marlboro High school is as beneficial to him as his students.

“The kids are doing well,” said Kemp, a Mount Saint Mary College student. His seventh grade Spanish classes “are really excited about the language.” His ninth grade students are “easy to teach and want to take the language further.”

Kemp, from Wallkill, NY, answered the call to teach after pursuing a career as a chef. Kemp is going from preparing Thanksgiving feasts and tasty Spanish dishes to speaking Spanish and teaching his students how to talk turkey in a second language.

“I love Spanish and I think it’s a really useful thing to know in the United States,” said Kemp. “Anywhere I go, I hear people speaking Spanish…I think it’s really neat that I have all these new people I can talk to.”

The career change was an adjustment with a radically different work schedule, but Kemp quickly adapted. “Anything worth doing is a bit of a struggle in the beginning, and I think this is paying off for me right now,” he said.

His cooperating teacher Merri Sedgwick observed that Kemp is developing a keen sense of planning and flexibility, as well gaining confidence in his teaching ability.

“He’s so enthusiastic and happy to be here, and he’s so, so knowledgeable. He speaks Spanish very well,” she said.

Kemp cites his Spanish courses at the Mount, with Victor Azuaje and Karen Eberle-McCarthy, as instrumental in his development. His semester abroad in Segovia was also a great return on his investment: “It was bringing the Spanish culture to life. It was living it every day,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, the former chef enjoys teaching his students about Spanish cuisine.

The food in Spain was “great,” said Kemp. “I had paella a lot. And there’s a lot of chewy sausage, and tortillas like omelets, potato omelets, with onion. They eat that all the time. But they don’t eat eggs for breakfast like in America.”

It’s hard work to instill a love of the Spanish language in his students, Kemp said. But he feels he was born to take the challenge.

“As a chef there’s a lot of instant gratification,” Kemp mused. “With teaching you don’t always see what you’ve accomplished right away. However, when do you see it – and you see it daily – it’s very rewarding.”

As Kemp began his placement, another Mount student was completing hers.

It was her final day student teaching at Newburgh Free Academy, and Erin Bendul wished she could have spent more time with her students.

“I love this place, I love teaching, and I don’t want to leave,” exclaimed the math and special education teacher candidate from Northvale, NJ.

Bendul was just as passionate when she began, but she was also nervous that some of her students might have difficulty in their own transition from eighth to ninth grade. Her fears were swiftly put to rest.

Had the Mount’s education program primed Bendul? “Without a doubt,” she said. “The way that they fit all those classes together to prepare me for this is just great.”

Professor Dolores Berlinghoff opened many doors.

“She teaches in such a great way,” explained Bendul. “Her delivery is really good. She can be funny and quirky, but she can also be serious. She teaches you what you need to know.”

Bendul added that her advisor, Reva Cowan, “makes me happy to be in the education program,” and that Monica Merritt “knows her content well.”

The seeds of Bendul’s passion for teaching were planted at Northern Valley Regional High School at Old Tappan, NJ thanks to Jennifer Samuel, her math teacher.

“She taught math in a way that totally clicked, totally made sense,” Bendul explained. “Because she did that for me, I wanted to be that teacher for someone else.”

Her supervising teacher, Kellie Gayton, helped Bendul blossom.

Gayton is a second generation Mount-educated teacher. Her mother, Dianne (Corkedale) Schufa, graduated from the college in 1974.

Gayton and Schufa are among successful Mount alumni such as New York State 2010 Teacher of the Year Debra Calvino, who teaches mathematics at Valley Central High School in Montgomery, NY, and Kaity Iaquinta ‘11, an eighth grade math and special education teacher at IS 162 in Brooklyn for the New York City Department of Education.

It’s not uncommon for Mount alumni to take the college’s student teachers under their wings; more than 16 percent of current first year students at the Mount aim for careers in education. The college’s nationally accredited education program embeds fieldwork in coursework beginning in sophomore year, and earns high marks in preparing students for New York State licensure.

Like Bendul, Gayton credits Mount teaching as an aid to her success. She said a content literacy course taught by Judy McAfee greatly enhanced her teaching.

“It’s very important that content teachers understand how literacy affects their classes. (McAfee’s) class and the strategies she taught us helped me break down my content to be easier for students to understand,” Gayton explained.

After a career in business, Gayton began teaching in the Newburgh Enlarged City School District seven years ago.

Like Kemp, Gayton said she made the right choice with both the career change and attending the Mount.

Bendul’s first student teaching experience was as enjoyable as it was valuable. Though she would miss her students at NFA – and Gayton would miss her first supervisory experience – Bendul was excited to move on to her next placement at Temple Hill Elementary School in New Windsor, NY.

“This is amazing. This is right where I want to be,” she said.