On April 4, the Bank Street community gathered for the Lucy Sprague Mitchell Society Virtual Tea, an event organized by the Development and Alumni Relations Office (DARO) for donors and supporters to learn about the College’s work to advance high-quality equitable education. The special event also recognized members of the Lucy Sprague Mitchell Society, which includes donors who have elected to leave a legacy gift to Bank Street.
To provide attendees with a deeper understanding of Bank Street’s impact in the field of education, students, alumni, and faculty from Bank Street Graduate School of Education shared reflections on how Bank Street has shaped their current work. During the event, speakers highlighted how they put into practice the progressive vision of education established by Bank Street founder Lucy Sprague Mitchell more than a century ago.
“Bank Street is grateful to have the dedicated support of our community, whose contributions are helping to ensure that we can broaden our reach by making our programs affordable,” said Cecelia Traugh, Dean, Graduate School of Education, before presenting an overview of the College’s work around redesigning graduate programs. “We hope to continue developing learning experiences for students that will enable them to become the strong educators they need to be today and meet the educational needs of schools and individuals who aspire to become teachers.”
Dean Traugh explained that, among other areas of focus, the Graduate School’s program redesign includes five key threads: developing racial consciousness, learning to teach multilingual learners, preparing for teaching in public schools, honing the creative and experimental spirit, and strengthening understandings of development and disability.
Next, Dean Traugh moderated a conversation with graduate student Audrey Martinez, a special education teacher enrolled in Bank Street’s Early Childhood Special and General Education Dual Certification Program, and alumna Miki Tomaru, GSE ’22, an elementary school teacher and graduate of the TESOL Residency Program.
The discussion explored Martinez’s and Tomaru’s inspiration for becoming teachers and emphasized ideas from Bank Street that they translate to their classrooms today. For example, Tomaru referenced how the Bank Street credo points to “flexibility when confronted with change” and the “ability to relinquish patterns that no longer fit the present,” which she applied to her experience starting a teaching career during the pandemic and managing an increase of new students who are asylum seekers.
Tomaru added, “Bank Street taught me to look for justice in everything that I do, whether it’s linguistic justice, racial justice, or social justice. I really look at my practice through a lens where I need to understand why I’m doing something and what this means for my students…I need to make learning an equitable experience for all of my students.”
After the conversation with graduate students, Soyoung Park, Director, Early Childhood Special Education Programs, Graduate School of Education, spoke about her research, which focuses on re-envisioning schooling for children of Color with disabilities. Park, who grew up in a Korean-immigrant family among relatives with disabilities, discussed how this work has been central to both her personal and professional life.
“I learned across my years in higher education that teacher education and educational research are both still largely rooted in racist and ableist ideas about schooling for children of Color with disabilities,” said Park. She shared why she was drawn to Bank Street four years ago, explaining that “Bank Street’s beliefs about pedagogy that centers all children’s capabilities, the view that every human being is valuable just as they are, and the strong commitment to social justice” attracted her to the College.
Reflecting on her role at Bank Street, Park said, “I get to teach classes from a philosophical and pedagogical lens that I deeply believe in, I work directly in the field with our absolutely incredible change-making students like the two speakers that we heard earlier today, and I’ve been strongly supported to pursue scholarly work that I hope will contribute to radical shifts in the field of special education.”
Following the presentations, Bank Street President Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, facilitated a question-and-answer session with attendees and speakers on topics such as experimental and inquiry-based learning in today’s classrooms, student-centered and social-emotional approaches, and finding inspiration and hope in the work of education.
To conclude the event, Jane Donahue, Senior Director, Individual Giving, DARO, shared closing remarks with information about ways the community can support the mission of Bank Street and maintain the legacy of Lucy Sprague Mitchell.
The Lucy Sprague Mitchell Society recognizes donors who have elected to leave a legacy gift to Bank Street, demonstrating a resolute contribution to the future of progressive education and creating a longstanding impact. The society currently includes nearly 60 alumni, trustees, and donors.