Harcourt Foundation Funds Future Teachers

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.”

CSI Faculty and Students Bring Italian Culture to Life at Summer Camp

Some of the participants in the Italian Camp 4 Kids strike a pose on the grounds of the Garibaldi-Meucci Museum.

Italian Camp 4 Kids at Staten Island’s Garibaldi-Meucci Museum recently wrapped-up, giving children in two age groups, ages five to eight and ages nine to 12, a chance to learn about Italian culture in a fun and innovative way. 

The program included Italian language immersion with games, songs, movement, arts and crafts, and imaginative play to create an entertaining, age-appropriate, natural learning environment. Another interesting aspect of the camp was the major contributions that CSI Education Department Adjunct Lecturer Janet Grillo and four student volunteers from the College’s Early Childhood Education program (juniors Allison Babwah and Daniela Arcuri, and  2011 graduates Regina Mireau and Michelle Martinese) made.

Explaining the structure of the camp and how she feels about the four students, Grillo said, “I am so very proud of my CSI students…They are extremely dedicated and innovative. I gave them a few minor guidelines and told them to create the schedule and curriculum for the camp.” 

Grillo added, “The purpose of the museum is to bring awareness to all of the great Italian culture. Our camp was created to continue this with young children. The best way to keep a culture alive is to keep the language alive. The children learned the colors and numbers in Italian as well as key phrases. Throughout the day our Italian teacher, Daniela, translated whatever was going on and the children repeated the phrases. Our arts and crafts staff, Michelle and Allison, devised all sorts of crafts that reinforce the four topics. They came in early and prepared the activities for the day. Regina helped with the planning prior to the camp’s opening.” 

So how did the kids who took part enjoy the camp? “I like that we learn Italian. There are stories, and you get to play with bubbles and there are kids,” said Bram, age five. “There is a lot of outdoor play and I like my camp counselors, so the camp was awesome,” Sophia, age nine commented. Samuel, who is also nine years old, was really enthusiastic. “I really like it, I think it’s top notch. I give it five stars, hands down.” 

For their part, the CSI students also enjoyed the experience. Daniela Arcuri stated, “It felt so refreshing to be intimately involved and a part of such a close-knit summer camp that immersed the Italian language with play and water fun. Professor Grillo is like a mentor to me, and as soon as she asked me to teach children Italian, I was absolutely delighted and knew it would be a success. In fact, it was. Ultimately, each of the parents praised our teaching methods, the many activities, and everything else that our camp had to offer.” 

Allison Babwah noted that the camp “was a great experience for me because I had to create many art and craft activities infused with both the Italian language and the Italian culture. By doing so, the children were able to do arts and crafts, learn about Italy, and learn the Italian language all at once.” 

Grillo learned something, as well, something about her four CSI volunteers. “These four young women have shown maturity and dedication. They will undoubtedly become fine teachers. I see the focus, dedication, and joy that they have for the field.”

David Bloomfield quoted on Breaking News

Behind New York’s School System Shakeup

Breaking News – 04/08/11 13:27 – Words matched: College of Staten Island

NEW YORK — It was a day of tumult for the leadership that presides over New York City’s classrooms. Cathie Black, New York City’s Schools Chancellor, is leaving just as quickly as she came.

…chancellor. David Bloomfield, who chairs the education department at the College of Staten Island, was not the only education expert who likened…

NASA Offers CSI Junior “One Giant Leap for Mankind” at Student Airborne Research Program this Summer

The waters of Monterey Bay appeared a deep blue from two miles up during a 2010 Student Airborne Research Program flight by NASA's DC-8 flying science laboratory. ©June 29, 2010, Jane Peterson/NSERC. Used here with permission.

It can be said that many students are reaching for the stars as they pursue their degrees, but in the case of CSI Junior Daniel Kurzweil, that phrase is just a little more apropos.

Daniel is one of only 30 students selected by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to participate in its Student Airborne Research Program (SARP). The six-week summer program allows students to acquire hands-on research experience in all aspects of a scientific campaign using NASA’s DC-8 airborne science laboratory.

Daniel Kurzweil
Daniel Kurzweil

“I am very happy to be offered this once in a lifetime opportunity,” commented Daniel. “I cannot thank my professors enough for their mentorship and guidance, especially Dr. Alexander for pushing me to apply for this program.”

Majoring in Mathematics with a minor in Education, Daniel is a leader in the Teacher Education Honors Academy at CSI. As an outdoor enthusiast who enjoys hiking, he is looking forward to performing hands-on fieldwork in the three general research areas: atmospheric chemistry, evapotranspiration from agricultural crops in California, and ocean biology along the California coast.

“The DC-8 is a major NASA resource for studying Earth system processes, calibration/validation of space-borne observations, and prototyping instruments for possible satellite missions,” said DC-8 Project Manager Frank Cutler. “Participants will assist in the operation of instruments onboard the DC-8 to sample atmospheric chemicals, and to image land and water surfaces in multiple spectral bands.” SARP is managed by the National Suborbital Education and Research Center.”

According to Daniel, his interests are well-suited to the program.

“I was taking a lot of Geology courses just for fun,” he recalls. “My Geology professors, Dr. Jane Alexander and Dr. Alan Benimoff, suggested that I pursue an Earth Science teaching certification, in addition to the Math certification.”

“Daniel is one of the most dedicated, brightest and outstanding students that I have ever met,” commented Dr. Benimoff.  Benimoff, whose 2004 mineral discovery is part of the collections of the New York State Museum and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC, added that “during the spring 2010 semester he enrolled in my graduate Soils and Geohydrology course. As a term project he built a stream table to investigate the flow of meandering streams, and earned a grade of A. He did all this while taking 21 other credits.”

Once Daniel completes his degree at CSI, he hopes to teach Math and Earth Science at a New York City high school.

The summer program, now in its third year, will take place in Southern California at the University of California, Irvine, and NASA’s Dryden Aircraft Operations Facility in Palmdale.

Grant Application Process Leads to Dynamic Intra-College Collaboration

(L-R) Prof. David Bloomfield and Lisa Ebert

Recently, the Department of Education at the College of Staten Island decided to apply for a grant for Project S.P.E.L.L., an alternative certification program in special education and English language learning that seeks to create highly effective educators for local high-need elementary and middle schools. Upon learning that there would be an appropriate grant to be announced shortly, Department of Education Chair David Bloomfield took advantage of the expertise of the College’s Office of Sponsored Projects and Research to begin the process that would lead to the crafting of an effective grant proposal.

Speaking of the grant, Prof. Bloomfield notes that it “came out of the Obama Administration’s “Race to the Top” initiative, so as an education funding matter it’s something that I’ve been attuned to for quite a while.”

Once OSPR had been brought into the picture, Lisa Ebert, OSPR Director and her staff “met with key stakeholders on campus—the people we thought were potentially interested and might be involved with this grant. Although we didn’t have the RFP in our hands yet, we brainstormed different ideas, identified who might be effective in this process, and which elementary schools might be involved outside the College. Once we ascertained that there was interest in this, that this was definitely something that we wanted to do, we waited for the application to come out. Once it did, we began meeting regularly and narrowed down the scope of the proposal in terms of partners and the focus. We had less than six weeks from the time that we learned of the RFP until it was due.  We convened the core team of Profs. Gail Rosenberg, Greg Seals, and Deidre Armitage, as well as OSPR staff and Prof. Bloomfield.

During this time, Ebert reports that a major focus of the process involved digesting the RFP and then working with everyone involved to create an effective proposal. “Toward the last few weeks,” she recalls “it involved reading, editing, pulling out, putting back in, developing the additional attachments.”

Although the proposal is still under consideration, Prof. Bloomfield comments that he is pleased with the collaboration between his department and OSPR. “I think it was extraordinarily strong as a collaboration—efficient and effective. We’re close collaborators, particularly on the nuts and bolts of drafting the proposal. We [in the Education Department] have the program information and vision, and Lisa’s operation knows how to construct a winning proposal.” Prof. Bloomfield calls OSPR’s contribution the “muscle” behind the proposal.

So, as this proposal is under review, why should other faculty who are seeking external funding take advantage of what the OSPR has to offer?

Ebert states that “Sometimes there is a fear, hesitancy, and resistance to undertake a grant writing project of this scope because it’s a lot of work and grant writing and budgets tend to be very challenging for a lot of people. Also, faculty members are already so busy teaching and doing research that its very hard to find the time What we want to demonstrate that if we all contribute something, depending on what we have to offer, it is actually very doable and the reward is that everybody really learns a lot.

“I learned a lot about the New York Board of Regents and this particular program and the history,” Ebert added, “and I think that everyone working on the grant learned that they can write and edit … I know that they got excited about it. David facilitated the whole thing, empowered everyone, and took it up into the administration and had the appropriate sign-offs at that level. So, everyone worked together and it was a great experience.”

Ebert added that whether the proposal is successful or not [awards will be given in the spring], the players involved will also receive invaluable feedback so that they can fine-tune the proposal for other funding opportunities.

Prof. Bloomfield sums up the significance of collaborations with the OSPR, beyond the creation of a solid and effective proposal. “It builds a funding culture in the department and in the College in general.” In these tough economic times, this is a mindset that is crucial to the advancement of education.

CSI Post-Master’s Grads Impact Education Citywide

Marquitta Speller, Principal of Promise Academy Charter High School in the Harlem Children’s Zone

“The training that I received in the leadership program at CSI has helped prepare me for success in a demanding educational environment. After completing the program, I became a more reflective educator and leader.”

Those are the words of Marquitta Speller, Principal of Promise Academy Charter High School in the Harlem Children’s Zone, which seeks to break the cycle of poverty for all 10,000 children in a 97-block zone of Harlem.

“CSI teaches you how to lead with purpose and with vision. When your mission in life is to change the lives of children, these are the tools that you need to experience success.”

Speller, Promise Academy Principal since January 2010, completed her certification requirements at CSI in 2003. The skills that uniquely qualified her for her important position in a groundbreaking charter school environment can also be found in every high school on Staten Island.

That’s right; every high school on Staten Island currently employs at least one administrator who has honed his or her skills with a Leadership in Education Certificate from CSI. However, graduates from CSI’s Leadership in Education program aren’t a well-kept secret.

“These high-quality candidates go on to careers as administrators throughout New York City and the region as Assistant Principals, Principals, and Superintendents,” noted Ruth Powers Silverberg, EdD, coordinator of the Post-Master’s Advanced Certificate Program for Leadership in Education at CSI. “We currently have over 120 educational leaders in the system.”

“The students who are accepted into this highly competitive program join a cohort of fellow students, which helps foster a community of learning,” Silverberg said. “This learning community of highly qualified and motivated students moves through the program together so that they can provide a support system for each other in the program and beyond.”

“The CSI program focuses on how school leaders create conditions in schools that support high-quality teaching and learning for all students,” commented program alum Frank Giordano, Principal of Brooklyn’s MS 443. “At the same time, the CSI program is intensely personal, focusing on the leadership development of each participant.”

Courses include curriculum to human relations, as well as research and practice in educational leadership. Along with theory-driven coursework, students also gain valuable field experience through fieldwork projects focused on school and district level issues. Unique to CSI, students in the program also complete full-time internships in a New York City summer school program.

“These program components better prepare the candidate for a highly competitive career in the New York school system and also provide the opportunity to network with current leaders, many of whom are also fellow graduates,” Silverberg stated. “This further positions them to be the strongest possible school leaders.”

The next class of the Post-Master’s Certificate in Leadership in Education begins in July. Applications are currently being accepted. For questions, please contact the CSI Office of Graduate Admissions at 718.982.2019. The College of Staten Island, located at 2800 Victory Boulevard, is a senior college of The City University of New York (CUNY), the nation’s leading urban university.

Leadership Graduates at a Glance

-Approximately 320 graduates in 19 graduating classes since 1997
-Every High School on Staten Island employs at least one program graduate
-6 District Supervisors
-2 Agency Directors
-44 employed on Staten Island
-51 employed in Brooklyn
-10 employed in Manhattan
-2 employed in Queens
-2 employed in Parochial schools
-5 employed in New Jersey

What Do Leadership Graduates Have to Say?

“I found the Leadership in Education program at CSI to be a thought-provoking, rigorous, and in-depth experience. The learning environment is collaborative, innovative, and reflective. The summer internship is an invaluable training experience and great networking opportunity. As a result, I felt thoroughly prepared and confident in my administrative abilities.”

-Philip J. Carollo, Assistant Principal, PS 22, Staten Island

“I am a graduate of the Leadership Program at the College of Staten Island. I highly recommend this program to anyone who is planning to go into an educational leadership role. All of the instructors are highly knowledgeable about what an educational leader needs, and are clearly in touch with the recent practices that are used in public schools. Sound strategies were provided and multiple opportunities were given in which we were able to explore, create, devise, and reflect on what an effective leader needs.

I am currently a principal of an elementary school and I have utilized many of the skills that I gained from my experiences at the Leadership Program at CSI.”

-Sophie Scamardella, Principal, PS 65 (The Academy of Innovative Learning) Staten Island

“I am a graduate of the Leadership Program of the College of Staten Island from nine years ago. The program has given me the foundation necessary to lead in New York City’s complex and dynamic educational system.”

-Joseph Scarmato, Principal, High School for Medical Professions, Brooklyn

“My course work in CSI was an experience that allowed me to collaborate with other professionals and to gain insight from professors who modeled the elements of effective leadership. I thank CSI for focusing my vision toward a constructivist-based leadership style”

-Malky Plutchok MS, CCC-SLP, SBL, SDL, Supervisor of Speech, Cluster 5

“Taking part in the CSI Leadership Program provided me with the opportunity to make great connections in all areas of the school community, as well as develop my skills as an administrator. I recognized that a school’s structure should be set up where every person has an active and equally important role in setting high expectations of clear academic goals for all students. In addition, it became clear that a leader can change or improve the climate of a school by exemplifying qualities of support, appreciation, recognition, and honest leadership to brighten the tone of a school environment and promote learning.”

-Maria Bender, Assistant Principal of Mathematics, IS 72, Staten Island

Historians and Educators to Gather at CSI to Celebrate Staten Island in American History and 21st Century Education

CSI will host “Staten Island in American History and 21st Century Education,” a special event to celebrate Staten Island’s 350th anniversary.

Public School teachers, principals, pre-service teachers, educators, scholars in all academic fields, and the general public are invited to a special event to celebrate Staten Island’s 350th anniversary.

The College of Staten Island will host a two-day Academic Conference and Education Symposium entitled “Staten Island in American History and 21st Century Education” to take place at the Center for the Arts on March 19 and 20, 2011. The conference is a culmination of SI350’s recent “Call for Papers” and “Call for Teacher’s Guides.”

Three Colleges Award 18 Teacher’s Guides

A panel of judges, consisting of educational faculty from CSI, Wagner College, and St. John’s University, will choose 18 of the best submissions and  the developers will be invited to present their work during the first day of the Symposium. The six of the chosen guides will align with the curriculum of the elementary grades, another six will align with middle school, and the remaining six will align with secondary school.The best submission in each category will receive a prize of $1,000, and the runner-up will receive $250.

Submissions have been received, mostly from undergraduate and graduate students of education, many of whom are teaching in K-12 grades in Staten Island schools during the day, and who continue to further their formal teacher education during the evening. Examples of sites for which guides have been developed vary from well known historic sites, such as the Conference House, 9/11 Monument, Alice Austen House, or Sandy Ground, to less well-known sites, such as St. Peter’s Roman Catholic Church, Mount Loretto, or Clay Pit Pond. Also represented are guides that highlight the teaching and learning opportunities found in the study of important ethnic sites such as Killmeyer’s Old Bavaria Inn.

Two Keynotes: Six City and State Historians

The Conference will feature two keynote speakers: Carmen Farina, who has served for more than 40 years in public education, most recently as Deputy Chancellor for New York City Public Schools, and is the author of Making Connections, a multicultural/ interdisciplinary program focusing on Social Studies education; and Kenneth T. Jackson, the Jacques Barzun Professor of History and Social Sciences at Columbia University.

In addition the plenary session of the conference will bring together the five NYC borough historians and the New York State historian to discuss the topic: “1898: New York City’s Consolidation and its Ramifications.”

Community as Classroom

The call to develop teacher guides to any one of the 350 sites identified as sites of historical and cultural importance on Staten Island is founded on the theory of Place-based Education (PBL).  “The theory promotes learning that is rooted in what is local – the unique history, environment, culture, economy, literature, and art of a particular place–that is the students’ own place,” explained Dr. Margaret Bérci, Associate Professor of Education at CSI and co-chair of SI350 Academic Conference/Symposium.

Bérci noted that “although PBL is a great way to teach and learn, it takes a concentrated effort and extensive time commitment on the part of the teacher to develop effective PBL lesson plans.”  To that end, Bérci has incorporated the Teacher Guide Contest, as a case of PBL, into curriculum/pedagogy courses at CSI. As a result, many of the CSI Education students entered the contest with original guides containing extended lesson plans.

Curriculum-based Guides Available to Educators

“Development of these teacher guides has proved to be a great learning activity for pre-service teachers. Rather than simply working through a classroom exercise, the contest provided heightened incentive and interest in the alignment of PBL with the curriculum and the pedagogy of social studies,” Bérci noted. “The guides, representing the best of those submitted to the contest, include lesson plans for the pre-visit, site visit, and post-visit activities that align with national and NY State education curriculum standards; they are comprehensive in scope, and include extensive resource lists and background information in the content knowledge imbedded in the site, in which teachers need to be fluent.”

“Staten Island teachers who attend the symposium will take home great ideas that will help them to infuse their teaching with the benefits of PBL, knowledge of the immediate community and its place in the history of NY, USA, and beyond,” stressed Bérci. “The presentation of the guides, by those who developed them, will provide an opportunity for those attending to question and engage their colleagues in curriculum and pedagogy discussion.”

Bérci encourages “all K-12 teachers and principals to attend the event, as the scholarly papers will shed light on many aspects of Staten Island’s rich history and will also prove to be an invaluable resource for all educators on Staten Island.”  Bérci added that “by using the guides, teachers can easily incorporate significant sites into their teaching, and pre-service teachers can use the format of the guides as a learning tool and model as they begin to create their own lesson plans. Aside from being introduced to ideas from respected researchers and educators, the conference, as a whole, gives area teachers an opportunity to learn facts about Staten Island that they may not have known, to be introduced to a variety of perspectives on their community, and to gather ready-made teaching resources and methodology with which to engage their students in the knowledge they gleaned.”

The “Call for Papers” invited scholars from around the world to submit a research paper highlighting Staten Island’s place in history and in education. A large number of papers were submitted from inside and outside of the U.S., which shows that Staten Island’s impact is rich and long reaching.  All submissions were peer reviewed; 57 individual papers and three roundtable symposiums were accepted for presentation.

The “Call for Teacher’s Guides” is a contest inviting in-service and pre-service teachers to develop comprehensive curriculum-based teaching guides for use by public school teachers. The education symposium and contest is supported by a $10,000 matching grant from the Staten Island Foundation in order to promote learning and teaching about “our shared and diverse past.”

The “Staten Island in American History and 21st Century Education” event is co-chaired by Dr. Margaret Bérci and Dr. Philip Papas, Professor of History at Union County College. It is part of an ongoing effort by the Staten Island Foundation, CSI, St. John’s University, and Wagner College to foster a better understanding of Staten Island’s influential history by aiding the Island’s teachers in gathering the information and incorporating it into their lessons.

The College of Staten Island Center for the Arts is located at 2800 Victory Boulevard in Willowbrook. For more information about the event please contact: Dr. M. E. Bérci, Associate Professor of Education, CSI, Co-chair of the Conference on Staten Island in American History and 21st Century Education at margaret.berci@csi.cuny.edu or Dr. Philip Papas, Associate Professor of History, UCC, Co-chair of the Conference on Staten Island in American History and 21st Century Education at papas@ucc.edu.

Igor Arievitch publishes book chapter about the activity approach in sociocultural psychology

Igor Arievitch, has just published a book chapter, cited below, about the activity approach in sociocultural psychology.  He joins a distinguished group of invited co-authors for the volume, including such other superstars of contemporary psychology as Rom Harre, John Shotter, Kenneth Gergen, Michael Cole, and others, each of whom represented branches of sociocultural psychology (discursive, hermeneutic, dialogical). Suzanne Kirschner and Jack Martin, the editors of the volume, are former presidents of the APA’s Division for Theoretical and Philosophical Psychology.

Please join me in congratulating Prof. Arievitch on this impressive scholarly achievement.

Stetsenko, A. & Arievitch, I.M. (2010). Cultural-historical activity theory: Foundational worldview and major principles. In J. Martin and S. Kirschner (Eds.), The Sociocultural Turn in Psychology: The Contextual Emergence of Mind and Self (pp.231-253). New York, NY: Columbia University Press.