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Graduate School Continues Impact in Local Communities Through Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative

cohort-2This January, the Bank Street Graduate School of Education began recruiting for its third cohort of students in the Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative, a program designed to provide uncertified early childhood educators working in under-resourced neighborhoods with a more convenient and affordable way to access a Bank Street master’s degree.

Historically, aspiring teachers interested in pursuing the next level of their education are often limited by factors like time and money, especially those serving communities in need. To help alleviate some of these barriers, in 2015, Bank Street launched a reduced-cost master’s degree program that allows participants to attend classes and workshops near their job sites. The initiative was made possible through generous funding from several organizations.

While the program’s first and second cohorts served 14 and 22 Bronx-based early childhood educators, the third cohort will recruit practitioners working in Harlem and Washington Heights. Bank Street works with community-based organizations to recruit program participants and secure sites for classes and professional development workshops.

Michele Ryan, the program’s director, describes the expansion:

“As we continue to work in the Bronx, we are also broadening our reach to uncertified pre-k teachers in Harlem and Washington Heights. Many of the same circumstances that directed us to preschools in Bronx neighborhoods are similar reasons why we are expanding our reach. We want to offer an affordable, stimulating, and relevant master’s program to dedicated uncertified teachers in these communities as well, so they can make a significant difference in the quality of experiences they offer their students. We also look at this unique program as a way to work with and learn from community partners with the same goals in mind. This third cohort will focus on novice pre-school teachers so their master’s education can have a strong impact on their classroom practice early in their teaching careers.”

Like Bank Street’s standard degree programs, the Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative helps participants hone their teaching skills and learn the most effective strategies to impact the young children they work with. Class schedules are tailored to complement the work schedules of enrolled students and assignments are designed to capitalize on their existing strengths while maintaining the rigor of traditional Graduate School courses.

The three-year program also includes supervised fieldwork, a leading component of Bank Street master’s degrees that allows future teachers to take what they’ve learned in their courses and apply it to real settings where young children learn. During this time, they receive guidance and support from a Bank Street advisor, who helps them reflect on their strengths, talk through the challenges they face, and collaborate on teaching strategies to enhance their practice.

“The professional interactions during fieldwork between advisors, cohort members, and their settings serve as a model of how collaborations build capacity to engage thoughtfully with children and their families,” said Peggy McNamara, Senior Director of Student Learning Support and Community at Bank Street College.

While the program offers many classes in the community, some are held at Bank Street’s physical location on 112th Street and students have full access to many of the College’s resources including the Library, student services and supports, conferences and events, and the Bank Street alumni network. This encourages participants to immerse themselves fully into the Bank Street community and make the most of what the College has to offer.

Since the program’s inception, project leaders have engaged in a cycle of reflection to understand what about the program has worked and what can be improved. Part of this process involves gathering anecdotal feedback from participants—many of whom have been thrilled with their experience.

“My experience at Bank Street has been eye-opening, challenging, and incredibly helpful,” said Maria Rodriguez, a second cohort participant. “I’m learning in this field how to work as a teacher, how to help children, how to help families, and how to help my coworkers and classmates.”

Carolina Soto Bonds, a first cohort participant, added, “I’ve loved this program and it has changed my life. I thoroughly believe in the content of what we’ve learned and in Bank Street’s initiative in developing and implementing this valuable program in the Bronx. This program has influenced every aspect of my life and has made me want to be involved in similar work, proliferating ideals I’ve explored at Bank Street, always.”

Upon graduation from the Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative, participants will be eligible for New York State certification as early childhood teachers. They will qualify for higher compensation and may officially work as head teachers in early childhood classrooms in community-based programs or public schools.

Cecelia Traugh, Dean of the Graduate School of Education, added, “The Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative is a testament to Bank Street’s deep commitment to making a difference in communities through education. We appreciate our partners for their collaboration and insight and we look forward to welcoming a new cohort of students in 2019.”

For more information about the third cohort in the Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative, please reach out to Michele Ryan at mryan@bankstreet.edu. For admissions questions, please email Stephen Ostendorff, Director of Graduate Admissions, at sostendorff@bankstreet.edu.