Achieving their dreams of education: Four Mount Teacher Opportunity Corps students to graduate at upcoming Commencement

May 06, 2019

Graduating Mount Saint Mary College student Anthony Cordero of New Windsor, N.Y. Photo provided.Anthony Cordero of New Windsor, N.Y. a Mathematics major on the adolescent and special education track at Mount Saint Mary College, says his student teaching experience this semester at Russ Burns Valley Central High School in Montgomery, N.Y. has been invaluable.
“Student teaching has taught me a lot about organization, multitasking, and making sure that I am ready at all given times,” he explained.
From a young age, Cordero found himself excelling in mathematics and helping out his peers with their assignments. This passion for numbers made him realize how much he wanted to help other people enjoy math as much as he did, inspiring him to become a teacher and nurture the next generation of mathematicians.
And it’s 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, that Cordero and three of his peers will be graduating at the Mount’s 56th Annual Commencement Ceremony on Saturday, May 18.
“Throughout my TOC experiences, I’ve learned about various factors that affect student behavior and motivation, in addition to the impact on academic and emotional needs on each individual student,” Cordero explained. “The Mount has taught me that it’s important to take the students’ individual learning styles into consideration when planning and implementing instruction.”
Frances Spielhagen, Mount Education professor, oversees the college’s Teacher Opportunity Corps program. TOC 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 local partnership schools.
The initiative has three major focus areas: Continuing to strengthen the teaching profession in the programs provided by the Mount; creating a pipeline of teacher candidates from area high schools, especially first-generation college students and those who may be underrepresented in the teaching profession; and enhancing the current teaching force by providing teacher leadership training for area educators.
Upon graduation, TOC recipients are expected to seek employment in high needs schools.
TOC student Amanda Almodovar of Chester, N.Y., an English major with a dual certification in Childhood and Special Education, will also be graduating later this month.
“I hope to inspire my future students just as much as they inspire me, and guide them in discovering their intelligence and brilliance in the world around them,” she said. “Through social skills, emotional development, and academic milestones, I wish to encourage my students to change the world far beyond my time with them.”
TOC student and graduate-to-be Isaiah Bevans-Didymus of Poughkeepsie, N.Y. echoed Almodovar’s sentiment. “I hope to equip my future students with the knowledge to balance the academic and social aspects of their lives so they can become more well-rounded, professional individuals,” he explained.Graduating Mount student Christopher McGorty of Bellmore, N.Y. and Mount Education Professor Frances Spielhagen, overseer of the Teacher Opportunity Corps program at the college
Christopher McGorty of Bellmore, N.Y., a History major on the Adolescence 7-12 and Special Education tracks, says TOC has provided him with the opportunity to improve the lives of his future students in many ways.
“I hope to be the individual that students can connect with if they can’t get guidance from other figures in their life,” he explained. “I want to be the biggest motivator for my students and I want them to reach every goal that they have.”
As Cordero, Almodovar, Bevans-Didymus, and McGorty prepare for commencement, the Teacher Opportunity Corps program continues with a cohort of eager undergraduates like Kelia Ann Johnson of Poughkeepsie, N.Y.; Harley Ramirez of Newburgh, N.Y.; and Sabrina Sanchez of Unionville, N.Y.
Many other Mount Education students are involved with 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.
“Becoming a teacher is an investment in yourself and your students,” noted Professor Spielhagen. “It’s not just a job.”