May 08, 2018
NEWBURGH, N.Y. -
The alumni panel at the Mount’s recent Teach the Change conference consisted of (left to right) Phillip Stewart MSE ’14, a sixth grade special education/Math teacher with the Middletown School District; Nicole Speranzo ’15 MSE ’17, a special education teacher at Valley Central High School; Alejandra Gomez ’13 MSE ’16, an elementary special education teacher with the Spackenkill Union Free School District; Catie Biordi ’10, a Social Studies teacher at James I. O’Neill High School; Janaina Barham Middleton ’10, a special education teacher at Newburgh Free Academy’s Main Campus; and Dana McDonough ‘91 MSEd ’00, a literary specialist at Horizons on Hudson.
Mount Saint Mary College hosted its annual Teach the Change conference – a career development event for teacher candidates, high school students interested in becoming educators, and their mentors – on Tuesday, May 1.
“Becoming a teacher is an investment in yourself,” explained Frances Spielhagen, Mount Education professor and a coordinator of the conference. “It’s not just a job.”
About 150 people attended the conference, which featured an introduction by keynote speaker Dana McDonough ‘91 MSEd ’00, the 2016 New York State Teacher of the Year.
“Being a teacher is more than a great job, it’s a special calling,” said McDonough. “You are choosing a career that will position you to make great changes.”
McDonough is the second Mount Saint Mary College alumna to be named NYS Teacher of the Year: Debra Calvino ‘81 also earned the honor in 2010.
Also at the conference, a Mount alumni panel hosted a question and answer session to help the high school students to further explore their potential teaching careers. In addition to McDonough, the panel consisted of Janaina Barham Middleton ’10, a special education teacher at Newburgh Free Academy’s Main Campus; Catie Biordi ’10, a Social Studies teacher at James I. O’Neill High School; Alejandra Gomez ’13 MSE ’16, an elementary special education teacher with the Spackenkill Union Free School District; Nicole Speranzo ’15 MSE ’17, a special education teacher at Valley Central High School; and Phillip Stewart MSE ’14, a sixth grade special education/Math teacher with the Middletown School District.
Middleton said her biggest challenge in the classroom is getting her students to believe in themselves.
“I always believe my students can be whoever they want to be, but sometimes it takes a while for them to believe that they can be successful and they can do well,” she explained.
McDonough said at the age of eight, she visited her Aunt Arlene Sosta’s elementary classroom at Gardnertown Fundamental Magnet School. Sosta was a member of the Mount’s first graduating class of laypeople in 1964. Noting her aunt’s success, McDonough attended the Mount as well.
Teach the Change is a comprehensive initiative of the Mount’s Division of Education, coordinated in conjunction with the Center for Adolescent Research and Development (CARD), under the leadership of Frances Spielhagen, Mount education professor.
The initiative has three major focus areas:
- Continuing to strengthen the teaching profession in the programs provided by the college.
- 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.
- Enhancing the current teaching force by providing teacher leadership training for area educators.
The Mount was recently named a Teacher Opportunity Corps (TOC) higher education institution and the Teach the Change initiative was awarded a five-year New York State TOC grant. Over the next four years, the Teach the Change initiative will receive funding of $39,000 per year to nurture and mentor minority and/or economically disadvantaged candidates and prepare them to teach in at-risk school districts in New York State.
Teach the Change is a recruiting vehicle for TOC, a component of the New York State My Brother’s Keeper initiative. The purpose of TOC is to increase the participation rate of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged individuals in teaching careers.
The event was sponsored by the Mount’s Division of Education, CARD, the college’s Sigma Tau chapter of Kappa Delta Pi (the International Honor Society of Education), and Teacher Opportunity Corps.