Student teachers hone skills in area classrooms

November 10, 2011
Newburgh, NY -

Urszula Wyluda, who earned her degree this year from Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, N.Y., now works at Milner Core Knowledge Academy in Hartford, Ct., encouraging urban children to learn at or above grade level.

Urszula Wyluda, who earned her degree this year from Mount Saint Mary College in Newburgh, NY, now works at Milner Core Knowledge Academy in Hartford, CT, encouraging urban children to learn at or above grade level.

Long before they stand before a classroom of their own, Mount Saint Mary College teacher education students practice what they’re learning by serving in the community through hours of supervised classroom experience.

“Fieldwork -- embedded in coursework -- starts in the sophomore year,” said Dr. Reva Cowan, chair of the education program at Mount Saint Mary College.

“This is a distinctive feature at the Mount. We start earlier than many other colleges getting our students in actual classrooms. We provide a very supportive environment, though, with students, their professor and their peers in the classroom together. This builds a learning community where our teaching candidates begin to grow,” added Cowan.

Christa Spisso, a sophomore mathematics major from Toms River, NJ, has just started coursework in elementary schools in Newburgh, NY, where she and her peers observe and teach lessons.

“We are each assigned a student and we work one-on-one,” said Spisso. “We assess their skills levels and then implement lesson plans to help them improve academically.”

Spisso works on mathematics with a third grader at Sacred Heart School and on literacy with a first grader at Gardnertown Fundamental Magnet School.

Using “math manipulatives and reading a lot” with her students, Spisso noted that being in a classroom early on in her undergraduate education helps greatly.

“As I learn how to create lesson plans in my education classes at the Mount, I can put them into actual use with the children and immediately see what works and what needs to change in how I prepare my lesson plans,” she said.

Cowan noted that students at the Mount are “scaffolded or given a gradual release of responsibility. This insures that our candidates are very well prepared for teaching their own classes.”

Senior Christina Campisi of Howard Beach in Queens, NY, is placed at Valley Central High School in Montgomery, NY. The English major is working alongside Valley Central teacher Anna Leo ’02.

Campisi, who plans on attending graduate school for speech pathology after graduating next May, said that she is learning that “teaching is definitely a lot more work than most people think, but being surrounded by kids all day makes your job a lot more fun.”

A typical day in the classroom includes taking attendance, grading papers and “following each student's IEP (Individualized Education Program) when teaching lessons,” noted Campisi who is seeking certification in adolescent/special education.

Campisi choose Mount Saint Mary College due to its reputation of having an excellent teacher education program.

A degree from the Mount, Campisi said, would help her “stand out above other candidates when I look for a job.”

Valley Central High, where Campisi student teaches, boasts the New York State 2010 Teacher of the Year, Debra Calvino, who graduated from the Mount with a mathematics degree in 1981.

And the stats also show that the Mount’s education program is earning high marks in preparing well qualified teachers.

“The aggregate pass rate on the content specialty tests required by New York State for licensure is 98 percent for our students,” noted Cowan. The state requires at least an 80 percent pass rate.

After graduating this May, Urszula Wyluda spent the summer being trained by Teach For America on how to help close the achievement gap within inner city schools. The honors English major then fulfilled her “life-long dream of teaching within my own classroom,” when she was hired by Milner Core Knowledge Academy in Hartford, CT.

The best aspect of her education at the Mount, said the Southington, CT resident, was “all the field work and one-on-one experience with the students.” Wyluda also credits her involvement in the Mount’s Student Government Association with helping her develop time management, leadership and organizational skills – all of which she implements in her classroom.

Wyluda did her student teaching at Milton Elementary School and Marlboro Middle School, both in Ulster County, NY.

Mount Saint Mary College is accredited by the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, plus specialized accrediting commissions such as the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).