On May 5, the Bank Street Graduate School of Education celebrated its annual commencement ceremony in honor of our 2022 graduates. The ceremony also recognized the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters, Honoris Causa to Carol Hillman, GSE ’67 and ’87, who is a former early childhood educator and leader, consultant, adjunct professor, and Bank Street trustee and alumni.
Ms. Hillman, who was recognized for her dedication to experiential learning techniques and scholarship in the field of education, attended Bank Street twice, earning a master’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education in 1967 and returning for a master’s degree in Educational Leadership 20 years later.
Upon receiving her honorary degree, Ms. Hillman said, “Why am I being honored by Bank Street? To do what I absolutely love to do? The more I thought about it, the more I realized it’s really not about me. It’s about Bank Street. So I want to tell you a love story that went back over 50 years.” Ms. Hillman spoke about her life in terms of Bank Street’s values, including experiential learning and the art of listening, and she urged this year’s graduates to stay connected to the Bank Street community.
Following the conferral of the honorary degree, two members of the Class of 2022—Lauren Graham, GSE ’22, and Juzenia Tirado-Carrion, GSE ’22—took the stage to reflect on their experiences and share a few key learnings. Ms. Graham, a graduate of the Early Childhood General Education program, spoke about self-awareness and centering joy.
“It was within the Bank Street walls where I closely examined education policy and was encouraged to take a stance against systems that oppress children and families from marginalized communities every day,” Ms. Graham said. “I will continue to create educational experiences that are culturally responsive and culturally inclusive, so that all children feel affirmed and celebrated. I will continue to use my classroom as a vehicle for social change and artistic expression, centering joy and justice.”
Juzenia Tirado-Carrion, also a graduate of the Early Childhood General Education program, reminded her classmates to remember why they chose to teach and to never stop learning. She said, “We all have different reasons as to why we were inspired to enter this profession. A profession that requires us to keep learning.”
The Class of 2022 also heard from Cecelia Traugh, Dean, Bank Street Graduate School of Education, who shared an inspiring poem by William Stafford on the importance of embracing change during difficult times, which she connected to Bank Street’s credo.
Dean Traugh said, “I hope that in various ways your work at Bank Street, guided by the credo, has helped you enhance the sustaining values and principles that were important to you when you joined us, and that these threads have become thicker and stronger and more easily held on to as you move on and out.”
When Victoria Hamilton, Chair, Bank Street Board of Trustees, spoke to the graduates, she called them “our raison d’etre” and identified their classrooms as “microcosms of society at large.” She said, “Bank Street was founded in the belief that through education, we have an opportunity to build a better society. A society where diversity is celebrated, where you are taught to find the strengths in every child and build from those strengths…. Bank Street has linked education and social justice and that critical intersection with the health of our democracy from its founding more than 100 years ago. You teachers and teacher leaders are on the front lines of this work.”
Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, President, Bank Street College of Education, reminded the new graduates that the pandemic will be the defining issue of their careers. To meet this moment, he encouraged them to channel what they’ve learned at Bank Street as they face the challenges of their futures.
President Polakow-Suransky said, “Your Bank Street family will be with you. I offer myself as both evidence and a resource. Like you, I am an alumnus of the Graduate School. I have kept in touch with my classmates over the years, and clearly have stayed connected to the institution. When I started Bronx International High School, I relied on many of the relationships I’d made during my time here at Bank Street. I hope you do the same, sharing your achievements with us and turning to us for support when you need help.”
Click here to watch a recording of the ceremony and celebration of the exceptional accomplishments of our graduating class.