Bank Street Graduate School Hosts First Virtual Event for Donors

At a time when in-person events for Bank Street Graduate School of Education supporters are simply not an option, creating reflective, thought-provoking, and engaging digital experiences has never been more important. To address this challenge, the Graduate School of Education and the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) partnered this summer to develop and host the first virtual event for graduate school major donors and supporters.

To help build connections and provide supporters with a closer look at the methods and impact of Bank Street’s approach to remote teaching and learning, the teams held a live webinar titled “Engaging Adult Learners in Virtual Learning the Bank Street Way” in late July. Thirty attendees joined the one-hour event to learn more about how graduate school educators and students are using technology to support their work during the 2020-21 school year.

“This was our first live webinar event for major donors and we were excited to see such strong engagement from our supporters. The event provided an opportunity for participants to engage with our graduate school educators in a meaningful way—despite social distancing challenges posed by the pandemic—and offered donors an immersive experience that incorporated many of the same tools and platforms the graduate school community have been using day-to-day in their work and studies this fall,” said Marcela Hahn, Vice President of Development, Development and Alumni Relations Office.

At the start of the event, Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, President, Bank Street College of Education, welcomed guests and thanked everyone for their continued support of the Graduate School of Education.

“Without your support, Bank Street would not be able to offer the educational opportunities we provide today. Building and sustaining strong relationships is at the heart of Bank Street’s approach to teaching, to learning, and to our work together as colleagues. We know as well as anyone that people—children and adults—grow and learn in the context of relationships with others,” said Polakow-Suransky.

He also provided a brief update about virtual learning at Bank Street, noting that most graduate students prefer this structure, at least in the near term, so they can continue their education in the midst of COVID-19. “As a community of educators, it is imperative that we meet the challenge inherent in this shift and design our virtual learning experiences to be as impactful as possible,” he said.

Following the opening remarks, Cecelia Traugh, Dean, Graduate School of Education, introduced the event’s facilitators: Robin Hummel, Co-Director of Leadership Programs, Graduate School of Education; Laura Zadoff, Director of Online Learning, Graduate School of Education; and Jessica Blum-DeStefano, Course Instructor & Supervised Fieldwork Advisor, Graduate School of Education. Each facilitator led intimate discussions focused on various aspects of virtual learning through small breakout groups.

Padlet responses from DARO event participantsIn each group, participants were asked to think about powerful learning experiences they had as adults and what they think made that meaningful learning opportunity possible. Similar to their work with students, the facilitators encouraged participants to use Padlet, a digital application, to capture reflections, feedback, themes, and connections that emerged during their time together.

At the end of the webinar, facilitators hosted a question and answer session for participants through the chat feature on Zoom. Sonaliz Morel-Baker, Director of Development, Development and Alumni Relations Office, gathered the questions and comments and shared them with the attendees for further learning. Question topics ranged from how the pandemic has changed teaching strategies to the level of student engagement during remote learning.

The facilitators said communication is key during these unprecedented times and that the importance of meeting students “where they are” requires encouragement and flexibility. “Powerful adult learning experiences have occurred when I—as an educator—was willing to step into my learner’s stance with confidence,” said Hummel.

“The event was a true success—the facilitators were knowledgeable and excited to share how Bank Street is designing remote learning experiences for their students and the participants remained engaged through a combination of reflective inquiry and hands-on opportunities,” said Morel-Baker.

“While virtual events are not the same as an in-person experience, the right strategy can provide community members with equally enriching opportunities to network and have lively discussions,” said Laura Baber, Associate Vice President, Major Gifts, Development and Alumni Relations Office. “DARO looks forward to continuing to partner with departments throughout Bank Street to offer virtual opportunities that support and foster thoughtful connections with Bank Street donors and alumni.”

To explore the Padlet content shared during the webinar, please click here.