Harcourt Foundation Funds Future Teachers

April 26, 2012

Dr. Jane Coffee, Director of the Teacher Education Honors Academy at CSI and author of The Alfred Harcourt Foundation grant proposal.

This upcoming fall, three College of Staten Island Teacher Education Honors Academy (TEHA) students in their sophomore year will receive scholarships from The Alfred Harcourt Foundation.  These scholarships will be renewed each year for three years provided that the student(s) remain in good academic standing, and are making annual progress toward graduation in four years.

“The CSI TEHA is the only program of its type with this scholarship,” beamed Dr. Jane Coffee, TEHA Director, Professor of Mathematics at CSI, and writer of the Harcourt Foundation grant proposal. “Peter Jovanovich, the President of the Alfred Harcourt Foundation, likes to support students who want to give back, and that is what TEHA students do by design.”

Each of the three students will receive $7,000 per year, which will cover tuition, fees, books, and also help fund a mentoring program where the students can establish relationships with active teachers that can last throughout their college and perhaps professional careers. This is “a great program for establishing professional relationships early in their teaching careers,” said Coffee, commenting on the mentoring program.

Each year, there will be a new cohort of students, adding up to nine by the time this year’s cohort become seniors. The TEHA staff chooses which students are eligible to apply for the scholarship, based on the criteria laid out by the foundation, not the least of which is that students must be from “disadvantaged academic settings,” according to the Harcourt Foundation’s approval letter.

Dr. Coffee advises one more criterion for the students who apply for the scholarship. “Have an interesting story,” she said. “All of our students have interesting life stories. That is what makes them so special.”

The advantage to graduating from the TEHA is that while students receive invaluable training as teachers from their first semester in the TEHA, they also graduate with a degree in Math, Biology, Physics, or Chemistry. This means that should they change their minds about being teachers, they still have the skills to pursue other careers. “The purpose is to get the students jobs,” said Coffee.

Though the teacher hiring freeze has hurt many teaching candidates, Dr. Coffee is quick to point out that those who graduate from the CSI TEHA have a much better chance of landing a job at a Staten Island high school or middle school than those who do not. She was also quick to offer one last piece of advice to all students when it comes to the course of study in which they should major: “Find something you like, are good at, and can earn you a career.”

The bottom line is that students need to think about their careers much earlier than their parents did, and with the help of the Harcourt Foundation, the CSI TEHA prepares them for whatever obstacles may come their way.

CSI’s TEHA began several years ago under a different moniker, the CUNY Teacher Academy. When the CUNY Teacher Academy ended, CSI was the only college to continue the program, now as the Teacher Education Honors Academy.  “We want our students to graduate debt free and get jobs,” said Coffee, who worked with the program since its inception.

The Alfred Harcourt Foundation was started by Ellen Knowles Harcourt to honor her husband, one of the founding members of the publishing firm Harcourt Brace with the purpose of “enabling disadvantaged young people to attain an education that would lead to worthwhile work and credible citizenship.”

By Carlo Alaimo

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