CSI Students Teaching with Technology

Dean Gold (far left) and Dr. Lyublinskaya (far right) with CSI students holding their completion certificates.

While approximately 5,379 miles lie between the College of Staten Island (CSI) and Russia, that did not stop ten CSI students from collaborating with students at the Pedagogic Institute of Vladimir State University in Russia on the “Development of Elementary School Technology-based Geometry Curriculum and Field Testing of Materials with Pre-Service Elementary School Teachers” Project.

Made possible through a $40,000 grant from the Eurasia Foundation U.S.-Russia University Partnership Program funded by the U.S. Department of State, the project was comprised of several components. First, CSI Education students worked with their Russian counterparts via Skype on learning how to use and effectively teach with an app called GeoGebra. Once adequately trained through a series of Saturday workshops, students then applied their new skills, teaching elementary school children using the app at three Staten Island schools: PS 31, 45, and 48.

Led by Irina Lyublinskaya, PhD, Professor of Curriculum and Instruction at CSI, the initiative is a partnership between the School of Education at CSI and the Pedagogic Institute at the Vladimir State University. As part of the project goals, Dr. Lyublinskaya and Dr. Svetlana Tikhomirova, her counterpart at Vladimir State, also developed curriculum materials for an elective short course for pre-service teachers during their student teaching experience. This course provides professional development on teaching geometry with computer technology in elementary schools.

Dr. Lyublinskaya also provided the expertise in technology, integrating mathematics teaching and learning, with Dr. Tikhomirova, Professor of Mathematics at Vladimir State.

“While the U.S. education system is well known for the implementation of inquiry-based approaches to teaching and for using educational software for student explorations and learning, the Russian education system is well known for its rigorous approach to mathematics content starting as early as elementary school, and for strong foundations in mathematics teaching methods. Combining expertise from both countries will lead to an enhanced experience for pre-service teachers in both universities,” said Dr. Lyublinskaya.

The project culminated in a ceremony when participating students received completion certificates from Kenneth Gold, PhD, Founding Dean of the School of Education, and also small gifts that Dr. Lyublinskaya brought back from Russia. Professor Ruth Silverberg, Chair of the Department of Educational Studies; Deirdre Armitage, PhD, Director of Fieldwork; and Margaret Berci, PhD, Chair of the Department of Curriculum and Instruction were also present, engaging in introspective questions with the students regarding their confidence in teaching mathematics with technology.

“My students loved working with the iPads since they do not get to use technology too often in the classroom… Incorporating technology really made it a fun learning experience. I will definitely be using GeoGebra in my future lessons,” noted CSI student Ermina Dragovic ’17.

“Working with GeoGebra was a rewarding experience. Not only did I gain confidence in integrating technology into my lessons, but also feel more comfortable teaching mathematics. The students, with all different learning abilities, all did equally well on the activity. I am going to continue using this APP in future mathematic lessons, while also researching about other APPS to use for literacy, too!,” said Emily Arredondo.

“The most enjoyable aspects of the workshops were being able to collaborate with student teachers in another country, working together as a group to participate in this research, and learning more about the use of technology in the classroom though mathematics,” commented CSI student Gabriela Belfiore ‘17.

“I am so pleased that students benefitted from an outstanding exchange program without having to leave their home country.  This was very much a project of the 21st Century.  Through technology, Russian and U.S. students collaborated on the teaching of mathematics with technology,” noted Kenneth M. Gold, PhD, Founding Dean of the School of Education.

The U.S.-Russia University Partnership Program (UPP) is an initiative for mutual cultural and academic collaboration that connects higher education institutions in Russia and U.S. with one another, and supports the launch of new bilateral partnerships. UPP is implemented by the Eurasia Foundation (U.S.) and the National Training Foundation (Russian Federation) with funding from the U.S. Department of State.


CSI Student Frances Resuta Wins Graduate Scholarship for Teachers

Graduate Scholarship for Teachers. Frances Resuta was selected to receive $5,000 toward her education at the College of Staten Island (CSI). Resuta is currently working as a teacher and pursuing a Master’s in Teaching of English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL).

Resuta’s story stood out due to her incredible motivation and dedication, and the Scholarship aims to support her and her goals, including providing for her family and helping her students recognize their full potential. Resuta is pursuing a Master’s Degree so that she will be better equipped to help her students learn English while continuing to foster their native language. In her application materials, the student made it clear that she is committed to continuing her education in order to positively affect the lives of the students she interacts with.

Five applicants with compelling education and career goals were selected as finalists and will each receive $100: Jacinda Greco of Suny Empire State College, Cris Goldman of California Lutheran University, Mary Reed of the University of San Diego, Krystal Leddy of Capella University, and Amanda Thorpe of Johns Hopkins University. The deadline for the next round of SR Education Group’s Graduate Scholarship for Teachers is March 18, 2017.

SR Education Group will be awarding another $5,000 needs-based Graduate Scholarship for Teachers on March 18, 2017. SR Education Group also offers needs-based Community College Scholarships. Find out more on the Group’s Website.



Barbara Schwartz-Bechet ’89 named Associate Dean at Salus Univeristy

Barbara Schwartz-Bechet, CSI Class of 1989, has been named associate dean for the Salus University College of Education and Rehabilitation.

Barbara Schwartz-Bechet, EdD has been named associate dean for the Salus University College of Education and Rehabilitation (CER).

Dr. Schwartz-Bechet received a Bachelor of Arts degree in Elementary Education from Brooklyn College, a Master of Science in Education from the College of Staten Island and a Doctor of Education in Applied Behavior Analysis from Columbia University – Teachers College.

In her new position, Dr. Schwartz-Bechet will provide administrative and educational leadership for the College of Education and Rehabilitation. She will collaborate with the College’s chairpersons on graduate education programs in blindness and low vision, occupational therapy and speech-language pathology, as well as the evaluation and maintenance of curriculum excellence; assist the College’s dean in the administration and management of educational programs; and provide instruction in educational programs.

Dr. Schwartz-Bechet most recently served as chair of the departments of special education and early education and as interim chair of the department of literacy and elementary education at Northern Illinois University (NIU). In this role, she was responsible for faculty leadership, department management, program and curriculum development, program assessment and evaluation, student welfare and professional development.

A member of Phi Beta Delta, Dr. Schwartz-Bechet is the associate editor of the National Association for Professional Development Schools Journal and an Illinois State Board of Education program reviewer. She is a member of numerous professional organizations, including the Association for Behavior Analysis, Council for Exceptional Children, the University Professional & Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and the American Educational Research Association (AERA). In addition, Dr. Schwartz-Bechet has presented and published extensively both nationally and internationally.

Salus University is an internationally recognized academic institution, offering a wide range of graduate, professional degree and post-graduate residency programs for health care professionals.

CSI Graduate Amelia Sanchez Offers Valuable Advice During High School Graduation Keynote

CSI alumna Amelia Sanchez recently gave the keynote address at the graduation ceremony at Concord High School.

Amelia Sanchez gave the keynote address at Concord High School’s graduation ceremony this year.  What makes this an amazing story is that she graduated from the College of Staten Island only weeks earlier.

Amelia worked as a student teacher at Concord, a public transfer high school for students who have struggled in traditional high schools, while earning her degree in Adolescence English Education at CSI.

Amelia’s achievements may perhaps be the best way to highlight the importance of transfer schools and CSI’s commitment to student teaching and community outreach because not only has Amelia taught at Concord, she is also a graduate. “Amelia is a wonderful example of how teachers can give back to the communities from which they come and she has served as such a fabulous role model for the students at Concord that Principal Ron Gorsky saw it was fitting that she be the one to address the graduates,” said CSI Higher Education Associate Deirdre Armitage, commenting on the impact Sanchez has had on her students.

“Students like Amelia thrive in our supportive culture that students call their family,” added Concord High School Principal Gorsky. He also went on to discuss why he chose Amelia to be this year’s keynote speaker. “Amelia had been an inspiration to many students this year. Working individually, in small groups, and teaching whole-class lessons in her ELA classroom, she was always sharing a piece of her story. She became a role model for future success.”

In her address, Amelia, who was accepted into CSI’s fast-track program in special education for adolescence, admitted to being a “rebellious teenager who would get dropped off at school and sneak out the back door. Mom would receive a call from the school that I was missing yet again and by the time I got home I was in a world of trouble.”  She went on to talk about how she never planned on returning to high school after graduating and credited her mother for being her biggest supporter, who “never once gave up on helping me discover my full potential.”

“Concord High School not only saved me, it framed me,” she added. “I know and understand more than anyone the struggles and challenges that you have faced in making it to where you are today.  Some people have looked down on you and perhaps even lost faith in you. What is most important for you to realize is that you are here today because you have faith in yourself.”

Amelia’s own road to graduation was not straightforward. She struggled through her first semester at CSI and decided, after discussing it with her mother, that working as a full-time health aide was her best course of action. After three years of attending CSI, Amelia realized that nursing was not what she wanted to pursue. After much soul searching, she switched her major to English and decided to pursue a career in education.

“At first, I laughed at the irony of choosing education as my field,” she joked, admitting that going back to school was the last thing she expected herself to do. But, after taking her Foundation courses and reaching out to Principal Gorsky, who invited her to observe and student teach at Concord, she was grateful for “the confidence Concord gave me to succeed and believe in myself.” She is now preparing to complete her master’s degree at the College and become dual certified.

Amelia concluded her heartfelt speech by offering some advice to the graduates. “Recall a time when you thought that you would never succeed…but did. As scary as that moment in time was, you overcame it by buckling down, doing what you had to do. Think of this as you are challenged by future obstacles.”

Math for Early Childhood Symposium

The Math for Early Childhood Symposium was held, May 9 2013, at the College of Staten Island. It culminated the week long Mathematics Connections Conference, sponsored by the College’s Education Department. The symposium and conference were initiated by Dr. Judit Kerekes chairperson, Department of Education/ Mathematics. The forum was developed to demonstrate the meaningful innovations and practices that can be used to convey mathematical teaching in early childhood curricula.

Early Childhood graduate candidates Chaquita Crowder, Daniella Bulkin and Chad Farley, presented alternative mathematics’ strategies, to support comfort and accessibility for all students regardless of their economic status. Ms. Crowder stated, “growing up, I did not have access to many of the tools available”, Mr. Farley demonstrated how ordinary items, such as M & M’s or pizza, can be used to drive math instruction.

Dr. Ralph Grant, Vice President of Pillar College, one of the evenings guest speakers, emphasized his mantra of teaching tenets, “Don’t be petty”,” trust teachers’ abilities to teach”, “don’t get bogged down in details”, and most important (to teachers), inspire confidence in students, even if it is as simple as saying, “you’re wearing a nice shirt today”.

Additional guest speakers included, Richard Ianuzzi, President of the Statewide Teachers Union, Maria Neira, V.P. NYSUT, Iris DeLutro, Senior Coordinator, and Leap to Teacher Programs at CUNY Murphy Institute.

IS 51 Principal Nick Mele (CSI ’00, ’05) Embraces History, Creates the Future

Arts Education and Civic Engagement Polish a Public School’s Shine

Markham in his Waters Ave. residence. Photo courtesy of the Westerleigh Improvement Society.

Edwin Markham, born Charles Edwin Anson Markham in 1852, moved to what is now known as Westerleigh on the North Shore of Staten Island in 1901. He founded the country’s first poetry society in 1904, and his house became a central gathering point for the era’s literary elite, with well-received readings performed by notable figures from the home’s second-story porch.

“The Markham House was a distinctive residence and gathering place in its heyday, when the area was known as Prohibition Park,” notes the President of the Westerleigh Improvement Society, Michael Morrell (Richmond College ’70, MSEd). “It stands today as a distinctive crown jewel of Westerleigh, representing the incredibly rich literary history and architectural style of the neighborhood.”


The front page of the April 24, 1937 issue of the Staten Island Advance featured a photo of Edwin Markham outside his home on Waters Ave. in Westerleigh three years before his death. Photo courtesy of the Staten Island Advance.

In his day, Edwin Markham’s April 23 birthday was a local school holiday on which students gathered and covered his lawn with flowers. On his 80th birthday, President Herbert Hoover and prominent citizens marked his accomplishments as an artist and literary figure with a notable party at Carnegie Hall.  According to American National Biography, Edwin Markham “managed to fuse art and social commentary in a manner that guaranteed him a place among the most famous artists of the late nineteenth century.”

Although known primarily for his poetry, Markham was a community-minded civic leader.  His book Children in Bondage: A Complete and Careful Presentation of the Anxious Problem of Child Labor – Its Causes, Its Crimes, and Its Cure (1914), was a landmark publication in the crusade against child labor.

With a noble history, it is fitting that Edwin Markham Intermediate School 51 was the first junior high school built on Staten Island. Today it serves the communities of Port Richmond, Graniteville, Westerleigh, and Mariners Harbor.


Nicholas Mele graduated from the College of Staten Island in 2000 with a BA in History and again in 2005 with an MS in Adolescent Education. He became Principal of IS 51 on January 3, 2011.

IS Principal Nick Mele (CSI ’00, ’05) embraces the history of the Markham School and stewards a future where arts education and civic engagement are keystone values.

Before taking over as Principal, many people warned Mele that Markham was a “tough” school and that he had his work cut out for him.  From the moment he walked into the building, he realized that what he heard could not have been further from the truth.

“The children were great and the teachers and staff took such pride in their work and their school. Perhaps most importantly, I was impressed by the teachers’ and staffs’ dedication to our students and the student experience,” Mele reflects.

As he began integrating into the community, Mele learned that many parents who lived in the neighborhood did not consider IS 51 an option. With declining enrollment, he was fearful that the future was not bright.  After a week of observations and many consultations, he immediately put key changes in place and began to look at ways to make the school more attractive.

According to Mele, “the first course of action was to prioritize the visibility of myself and the staff, both in and out of the building, and to hold the students accountable. To date, we have had great results improving our student’s behavior and enhancing our community relations since I took over.” He began a series of tours and orientations for perspective parents and students during the school day to allow them to learn firsthand of the Markham experience. These activities have been highly successful and well received.


The academic success of students also became quickly evident. In 2011, no graduates were accepted into specialized high schools. In 2012, there were six, including two to LaGuardia. The school is also seeing an increase in English Language Arts (ELA) scores after tireless work with the students with disabilities population and English Language Learners, and consistently received a grade of “B” on the NYC Progress Report.

“If you look at our Learning Environment Survey in which parents, students, and teachers get to chime in about what they think of IS 51,” Mele notes, “we have increased in every category each year from 2006. That is an ongoing testament to the dedication of our teachers and staff, and our entire community is extremely fortunate to benefit for their efforts. My successes are rooted in theirs.”

After consultation with students, staff, and parents, Mele soon changed the themes of the learning academies he inherited to Fine Arts, Performing Arts, and Media/Technology.

This change “tied into what students were interested in and into what programs our feeder schools had,” according to Mele, “such as the band at PS 30 and the Chorus at PS 22.” In addition to implementing practical curriculum for each academy, enrichment-track classes were developed to benefit the students during their three years at Markham.

The lifeblood of a public middle school is a rich mosaic of teachers, staff, students, and parents, and Mele is proud of the synergy of their efforts.


“We collected over $30,000 this past year for the March of Dimes and that makes us the number-one school in the country” for the March for Babies Campaign 2011, touts Mele. This national distinction, which encompasses all K-12 schools throughout the country, is especially poignant as Markham is classified as a Title 1 school.

“We do not receive big donations…” Mele adds, “we raise our money mostly through the children and staff, one dollar at a time.” Mele is quick to acknowledge Andrew Cataneo (CSI MS Ed. ‘93, Sixth-Year Certificate ’95), Assistant Principal of the Performing Arts Academy, as the primary architect of the event and its ongoing success, adding “We are proud that anyone who visits the school in the springtime is welcomed with hallways covered with March of Dimes donation cards.”

In true Markham tradition, Mele knows that a cornerstone of building tomorrow’s leaders includes instilling a deep sense of social consciousness and civic responsibility. IS 51 participates in the Penny Harvest and Bread for Life, their chorus brightens the rec rooms of local nursing homes, and the school produces a spring musical production and puts on free performances for local elementary schools.

Students are quick to point out the emotional significance that their middle school experiences. One first-year chorus student beamed “We get to visit seniors and make them happy through song! That’s so much better than bringing them cookies!” Also, a recent graduate admitted to a summer of crying after leaving her school behind.


As a History major, Mele knows that knowledge gained in the past is critical to building a better future.

“CSI prepared me to become a great teacher,” said Mele.  “I remember a course that went over the nuts and bolts of lesson planning, aims, and objectives with Professor Goldstein. It provided me the structure I needed to be successful, and if I was not a successful teacher, I would have never made it to this point in my career.”

Mele also says he discovered “the purpose of education and our system with CSI Professor Armitage,” adding “It’s funny… in 1998 I was in her class, and today she comes to IS 51 with an excellent crop of student teachers from CSI.”

“I have many fond memories of CSI and I am excited to be in a position where I can give back to the institution and the community that helped shaped my career,” Mele notes.

This academic year, the IS 51 renaissance continues. With more families in the community believing in IS 51, enrollment in the honors classes has doubled and the PTA has increased its role and strengthens the community involvement and academic trajectories.

Tirelessly dedicated to the student experience, Mele doesn’t rest on his success when he notes “there is still a great deal more we have to do, but thanks to the teachers, the staff, and the volunteers who believe in our school, I believe we are on the right path.”


Students at Curtis HS and CSI Benefit from TD Bank Support


The TD Bank Charitable Foundation recently presented the College of Staten Island with a $5,000 check in support of SEEK/Strategies for Success.

Representatives from TD Bank recently visited the College of Staten Island campus to present a $5,000 check in support the partnership between SEEK/Strategies for Success and Curtis High School. 

The grant has two distinct groups of beneficiaries: CSI students who will serve as mentors to Curtis High School students, while improving their own academic, leadership, and professional skills, and Curtis High School students in need of academic support to ensure their success. 

Joseph Doolan, Vice President and Retail Market Manager with TD Bank, said “We are proud to support the expansion of the College of Staten Island’s Strategies for Success program into Curtis High School, and we are pleased that the CSI program’s 11 years of demonstrated success in our community will now benefit students at Curtis and allow for additional students at CSI to serve as college mentors.” 

Georgia Landrum, Strategies for Success Program Associate Director, further underscores the win-win that this project offers the students involved, “Curtis students will benefit by having college role models assisting them with their academic work. The CSI students benefit by being in leadership roles. They attend leadership development training that helps them in assisting the younger students and with their lives in general.”  

Landrum also notes that the gift from the TD Charitable Foundation completes the Strategies for Success pipeline, stating that “In the past, our program served elementary and middle school children. Now that we will be able to offer services to Curtis High School students, we have a continuum from the elementary to college level. We can now be more effective in reaching students at all levels and hopefully making the bridge to college a bit easier for them.”  

Prior to signing on with Curtis, Landrum reports that the program was already making a significant impact. In academic year 2011-2012 alone, Strategies for Success gave 32 CSI students the opportunity to serve more than 400 primary school children. 

CSI Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. A. Ramona Brown noted, “On behalf of the College of Staten Island, I would like to thank the TD Charitable Foundation for their belief in and support of CSI’s SEEK/Strategies for Success/Curtis High School partnership. We look forward to a collaborative relationship with the TD Charitable Foundation in support of CSI’s students, as well as students from the local schools on Staten Island.”   

Looking ahead to the future of Strategies for Success, Gloria Garcia, SEEK Program Director, states that “Strategies for Success has been in existence for 11 years and has made its mark in the Staten Island community. With this new initiative, we have expanded our services to the high school students. We look forward to continuing the strengthening of our partnerships with Curtis High School, the Jewish Community Center, and the New York City Department of Education (District 31), bringing the College and our students even closer to the community. We are very proud of our CSI role models.”