Specialized Graduate Programs Support Development of Early Childhood Educators in New York City

Early childhood is the time when infants, toddlers, and preschoolers develop the cognitive and social-emotional skills essential to lifelong success. While many New York City early childhood teachers have considerable teaching experience, hundreds do not yet have state certification or specialized training to help them better support early development and school readiness of children from birth to grade 2.

To help address this need, the Bank Street Graduate School of Education provides opportunities for experienced early childhood educators serving low income children and families to earn a Bank Street master’s degree and New York State certification in Early Childhood while employed as full-time teachers.

Juzenia Tirado-Carrion at Bank Street Graduate School of Education Commencement 2022Bank Street alumna Juzenia Tirado-Carrion, GSE ’22, worked full time while earning certification and a Master’s of Science in Education as part of Bank Street’s Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative, a Bronx-based program designed to support educators serving young children in New York City’s historically underserved neighborhoods. As a student speaker at the Graduate School’s commencement ceremony in 2022, Tirado-Carrion shared how her experience in the program offered her the opportunity to deepen her understanding of child development as it relates to early learning.

“Authentic growth requires diverse and nurturing opportunities for ongoing social, emotional, and cognitive development,” said Tirado-Carrion, noting that her studies at Bank Street helped to strengthen her capacity “to nourish the learning of both the individual and the community.”

In her speech, Tirado-Carrion shared how Bank Street faculty helped her to identify her personal mission: to advocate for economically disadvantaged students of culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.

“As an educator in the Mott Haven community, the poorest neighborhood in the Bronx, I witness the injustice in education on a day-to-day basis. Children in other parts of the city have access to a range of materials and resources, meanwhile some of the schools in the Bronx barely have crayons,” she said. “As a graduate student eager to learn from my peers and faculty, I made sure to implement the teaching approaches I was learning, which would bring a rich learning environment to my classroom in the Bronx.”

Grounded in its mission to improve education for all, Bank Street is committed expanding the College’s impact at the local level.

Shael Polakow-Suransky, GSE ’00, President, Bank Street College, notes, “The College’s work with early childhood educators serving low income students and families is essential to supporting the success of children in both school and in life. Research shows that receiving high-quality care at a young age is associated with positive outcomes later in life, particularly in families with multiple risk factors. At Bank Street, our graduate students develop the strength-based, culturally responsive teaching and learning practices needed to help children realize their full potential, as well as the skills and knowledge that help advance positive change in schools and learning communities.”

Bank Street’s Early Childhood Advanced Standing Program builds on the successes of the Early Childhood Urban Education Initiative Program. Developed in partnership with the New York City Department of Education, the 30-credit, competency-based program is grounded in the idea that children learn best when they are actively engaged with materials, ideas, and people.

During the program, graduate students hone their skills through a three-tiered model that combines the study of human development, pedagogical and leadership practices, and sustained clinical experience to ensure significant development as teachers. Participants complete their supervised fieldwork in the setting where they are already a full-time teacher and receive guidance and mentorship from a Bank Street faculty member who is an experienced teacher and advisor.

The curriculum is grounded in the belief that powerful learning comes in the form of play, social interaction, sensory experiences, and engagement in the world of literacy, literature, mathematics, science, art, and social studies. Through the program, Bank Street aims to ensure that a growing number of local educators are prepared to nurture the social, emotional, and cognitive growth of young children. The program culminates in a Master of Science in Education.

“The Early Childhood Advanced Standing program prepares graduates to support the growth and development of young children while benefiting the entire education ecosystem, including teachers, schools, and communities,” said Cecelia Traugh, Dean, Bank Street Graduate School of Education. “Graduate students learn to build links between educational theory and practice and develop the hands-on techniques and strategies that help all young children learn and thrive.”