Mount students thankful for their first taste of teaching
November 21, 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
“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
“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
As Kemp began his placement, another Mount student was
It was her final day student teaching at Newburgh Free Academy,
and Erin Bendul wished she could have spent more time with her
“I love this place, I love teaching, and I don’t want to leave,”
exclaimed the math and special education teacher candidate from
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
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
Gayton is a second generation Mount-educated teacher. Her
mother, Dianne (Corkedale) Schufa, graduated from the college in
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
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