Dr. Frances (Fran) Spielhagen, Professor of Education and Director of the Center for Adolescent Research and Development
Title: Professor of Education and Director of the the Center for Adolescent Research and Development (CARD)
Campus involvement: CARD, Teach the Change, Teacher Opportunity Corps
Years at the Mount: 16
Division: Division of Education
Favorite spot on campus: Lobby in Hudson Hall and the Chapel of the Most Holy Rosary
One word to describe the Mount: Nurturing
People are often surprised to learn that Dr. Frances Spielhagen has “only” been at the Mount for 16 years, as the work that she has done for and with the Mount community has quickly made her a pillar of the institution.
After working as a public high school teacher in New York and New Jersey for 30 years, Dr. Spielhagen earned a doctoral degree in teacher education and knew right away that she wanted to become part of the faculty at the Mount. She had known about the Mount for some time and had even helped some of her high school students get admitted to the college. “I was always impressed with how smoothly my students made the transition to this college, and once I joined the faculty, I understood why,” she explained. “We care about our students as individuals here! We are passionate about our work and sharing our knowledge, but the bottom line is that the individual students are our focus, and they know that.”
She prides herself on knowing not just about her students’ learning styles and career goals, but also who they are as individuals outside of class. “This helps me understand who they are and how I can best help them grow into the people they are meant to be,” she explained.
Her contributions to the Mount community, and particularly the Division of Education, have been numerous. She and other Education faculty worked to develop the Teach the Change initiative at the college, which helps introduce young people to the teaching profession, especially those who have traditionally been underrepresented as educators. The group runs successful annual workshops for high school students every spring and have created a pipeline for high school students into the Education program, including scholarships for Teach the Change students. Additionally, Dr. Spielhagen worked tirelessly to help the Mount receive funding for the Teacher Opportunity Corps, an award given to select Education students each year who agree to teach in challenged schools in the area. The Mount is one of 16 schools out of the 100 in the state to receive this funding.
Her other passion project has been co-founding the Center for Adolescent Research and Development (CARD) with Dr. Paul Schwartz. CARD is meant to be a resource for high school teachers and others who work with adolescents in the Hudson Valley and beyond. In addition to an annual conference on trends related to adolescents, the center also provides resources and workshops for area educators. As someone who has long worked with young people, Dr. Spielhagen is particularly proud of being able to provide these resources for other educators. “When I left the high school classroom 16 years ago, I never dreamt I would be able to create these experiences for educators. The Mount has provided the foundation for this good work.”
Her approach to education comes from her own background as a teacher. “I loved being a classroom teacher,” she noted, “and I hope to convey that same passion to the teachers I prepare and those already in the field by supporting them through the resources we have at this college. This sounds sappy, but I can see the future in their eyes.”
Most of all, Dr. Spielhagen takes pride in connecting with her students. “I hope that they know that they matter — to me, to their parents, to each other, and to the students they will teach. A few years ago, one of my students was struggling to keep up with the demands of our course while also working in retail to pay his tuition. One day he said to me, ‘I just don’t know if I can do this!’ I replied, ‘Somewhere today there is a little boy in kindergarten who in ten years will say to himself ‘Mr. X. gets me.’ That is why you have to keep trying.’ I am happy to report that he did and is well on his way to a successful teaching career.”
She particularly loves keeping up with alumni – in fact, she and a Mount alumna are currently co-authoring a book set for publication in Spring 2019. “Nothing gives me more pleasure than when I hear from an alum that her new class assignment, although challenging, is working out, or that a district has recognized a Mount alum’s efforts by giving them an award for excellence, or by hosting Mount alumni at Teach the Change so that they can share their insights with new candidates for the profession. I am thrilled when my Mount alumni ‘pay it forward!'”
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