A sort of homecoming

Teacher Opportunity Corps allows Mount student to teach in home district
November 15, 2017

Isaiah Bevans-Didymus

For Isaiah Bevans-Didymus of Poughkeepsie, N.Y., walking the halls of Poughkeepsie Middle School is familiar ground – but instead of working hard on his homework, this time, he’s making the grade as a Mount Saint Mary College teacher-candidate.

Bevans-Didymus, a junior, is completing an internship at the school he once attended thanks to the Teacher Opportunity Corps (TOC), a program designed to increase the participation rate of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals in teaching careers.

“It’s been an eye-opening experience seeing the classroom from the teacher’s point of view,” he noted. “Assisting in the implementation of lesson plans and redirecting student behaviors puts a new perspective on education at Poughkeepsie that I didn’t have when I was a student there.”

The future educator has always respected his teachers, but being on the other side of the desk has made him further appreciate those who guided him in the past. “These feelings truly came around full circle when sharing the ups and downs of the profession with my mentoring teacher,” he noted.

Bevans-Didymus, who is a member of the men’s track and field team at the Mount, became interested in TOC after sharing his aspirations to return to his home district with Sonya Abbye-Taylor, assistant professor of Education at the Mount. She encouraged him to apply.

“That is one of the goals of the state program,” explained Frances Spielhagen, professor of Education, director of the Center for Research and Adolescent Development, and TOC project director: “To recruit, retrain, and return local candidates to their home schools.”

In 2016, the Mount was one of 15 schools designated as a Teacher Opportunity Corps higher education institution and received a five-year grant to provide resources for select education students. With TOC support, these students receive financial aid that can be used to cover tuition and books and also defray student loans. They are enrolled in special seminars and participate in 10-month internships before student teaching in partnership schools in Poughkeepsie, Newburgh, and Fallsburg. Upon graduation, TOC recipients are expected to seek employment in high needs schools.

Three Mount juniors are currently completing internships in local schools: in addition to Bevans-Didymus, the other two are Anthony Cordero of New Windsor, N.Y. and Amanda Almodovar of Goshen, N.Y., who are interning at South Middle School in Newburgh. 

While five Mount students in total are TOC awardees, many others are also involved through the college’s Teach the Change program, a state-funded initiative similar to TOC that includes an annual workshop for high school students interested in joining the teaching field.