Contrasting Similarities: A Profile of A&H’s Student Teachers ☆

" I am in awe of the complexity and richness of cultures in our world," shares TESOL student teacher Marisa Militello.

The Arts & Humanities department currently has 190 student teachers in English, Art, Music, Social Studies and ESL classrooms throughout New York City. Their backgrounds, motivations, and post graduation plans are as diverse as the students they work with each day.

Students are placed in schools mostly in the five boroughs of New York. These preparing teachers work alongside their cooperating mentor teacher, planning and teaching lessons, conferencing with students and parents and attending staff meetings and school events. After this yearlong experience in the classroom, and fulfilling the requirements for New York State certification as well as an M.A. degree, these educators enter a world of possibilities in the teaching work force.

For some students who intend to teach internationally, they take that world of possibilities quite literally. Many students plan on taking their teaching credentials abroad. The TESOL program’s Darcy Coonan, who is currently student teaching in an elementary ESL class in Manhattan, hopes to land a position teaching in a Spanish speaking country, while Social Studies teacher-in-training Charise Richards can also see herself moving abroad after completion of her placement at the High School of Fashion Industries in Manhattan.

While a number of students hope to find international positions, many are happy to stay put and get to work right here in the New York City area. Andrew Kempe, who has travelled to 39 countries and lived in four, is ready to settle and hopes to move from his student teaching placement at The Bronx High School of Science into another public school right here in New York City. Marisa Militello, currently working at P.S. 218, a dual language school in the Bronx, hopes to continue teaching in the Bronx after graduation. For some like the English program’s Monica Carvalho, getting started here in the city is a good way to gain experience and put that oh-so-difficult-to-achieve NYS teaching certification to work before heading out of state to settle back near family.

Of course, finding and keeping teaching jobs in NYC right now is a precarious endeavor. Art Ed student Allidah Muller, who is student teaching at Manhattan Village Academy, would like to be able to in a NYC public school post graduation, but acknowledges how this could be thinking. “Given all of the recent budget cuts, I’m a little nervous about the status of art in the New York City public schools, but hopefully things will improve.” The type of position TC’s student teachers hope to find once they enter the education work force vary dramatically in scope and scale. Some, like Carvalho, place emphasis on having small class sizes, while others like Andrew Kempe are fine with maxed out classes of 35, like the ones he’s teaching at Bronx Science, depending on the learning needs of the students. Charise Richards doesn’t necessarily see herself in a traditional classroom at all, but envisions an alternative setting, such as one in museum education, as the backdrop for her teaching. And Victoria Glava, a Music Ed major who is currently student teaching in an elementary music classroom, has her sites set on opening her own school.

As with many things in life, the process of going to graduate school, deepening their knowledge of education, and student teaching is a journey. Throughout this experience, many students are learning about themselves as practitioners in their chosen content area, and as individuals. For example, Allidah Muller always thought she wanted to teach art at the elementary level, but since student teaching at a high school she has discovered her love for working with this age group. Like Art Ed, TESOL is a K-12 certification, which means there are multiple student teaching placements at varying levels. This has forced some students out of their comfort zone with respect to the age levels they’re working with, often resulting in some pleasant surprises about what different grades have to offer.

One thing each student teacher draws on throughout the process of growing as an educator is his or her own motivation to teach. This motivation stems from a multitude of sources and varies for each person. Andrew Kempe cites his desire to give students the broad perspective and solid foundation in literacy they need to be able to look at media critically and understand the world around them from a well-rounded, educated standpoint. Marisa Militello wants to reach out to immigrant students, helping them not only with English, but with the confusion and isolation of adapting to a new culture. Allidah Muller wants to provide her students with a safe space in which they are free to explore and express themselves.

While the trajectory TC’s many student teachers are on is complex and diverse, from why they feel called to teach to the capacity and environment in which they hope to do so, one thing shines through as a constant: passion for their content area and dedication to sharing knowledge with others. Their enthusiasm and love for teaching is inspirational. In this time of scrutiny, skepticism, and debate over education in America, it is heartening to think about what such a passionate and committed group of teacher candidates will bring to the field of education.