Evidence shows that teachers who complete supervised experiences in school contexts similar to their later employment contexts typically stay in the profession longer, are more effective, and feel more confident about their work than their colleagues. That’s why the Curry teacher education program systematically places future teachers in communities that best align with their career goals.
Our teacher candidates told us about their goals to work in larger, diverse metropolitan areas, so we established strong partnerships with Alexandria City, Falls Church City Public Schools, Henrico County Public Schools, Newport News Public Schools, and Richmond Public Schools. But we didn’t stop there.
To best serve our teacher candidates interning in these school systems, we developed student teaching seminars focused on diversity and equity in the Washington, DC, Richmond and Tidewater areas. Each group of student teachers meets with a local seminar facilitator to think through the challenges they face as they transition from preservice to novice teachers. They also meet with the community members who will become their partners in education.
As guest Curry blogger Dr. Jennifer Bacon recently advised, teachers need to call in the community experts and collaborate. We invite community partners to meet with us as a part of the seminar and often go to their centers to see their work in action.
Professor Paul Gorski (M.Ed. ’95 Soc Fdns), author of the book, Reaching and Teaching Students in Poverty, met with our Northern Virginia seminar and discussed the ways in which socio-economic status may impact student learning and engagement. One teacher candidate noted that his discussion was “particularly informative because he described stereotype threat in ways I’ve never heard before. …He made me think about the little things I do that affect students.”
Our Newport News candidates visited the Family Education Center, while our Richmond area candidates met with Renee Soniat, Henrico County Family and Educator Resource Center, to learn about the resources available for their students and families.
Inclusion is a term our teacher candidates begin to consider beyond the bounds of special education policy by purposefully using strategies to make their students feel safe, valued, and trusted in classrooms and schools. Leslie Stockton, Kenmore Middle School (Arlington) Minority Achievement and Testing Coordinator, helped student teachers work through the immediate questions they faced early in their placements related to diversity and equity.
Jonathan Zur, president of the Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, discussed specific resources and strategies for instructional and emotional support for students who speak multiple languages and may not be proficient in English.
Other speakers included
- April Vazquez with the Newport News Newcomers program for students (Grades 2-5)
- Dana Taylor, Campagna Center faculty and director of the Building Better Futures program at TC Williams High School
- Marcia D’Angelo, New Neighbors program director
- Valerie Goos, director of the Henrico County Public Schools Welcome Center.
Curry teacher candidates view their students and learning holistically. Although content knowledge, instructional strategies, and positive behavior management comprise the bulk of the teacher preparation program, understanding wraparound services that impact learning is a priority.
Jane Moreland, Newport News Public Schools Outreach Services Program Director, provided a wealth of information about dropout recovery, attendance, and adult education. Quentin Brown, the executive director of Communities in Schools in the Tidewater region, and Kathy Doxsee with the Campagna Center’s After School program, talked to teacher candidates about wraparound services and partnerships between schools and communities.
Lucy Beadnell, Director of Advocacy for the ARC of Northern Virginia, shared some of her time with our NOVA teacher candidates, while the Richmond seminar toured the new ARCPark and met with the ARC staff.
Curry teacher education is a part of a larger community that values all children and their potential. We view these seminars and conversations as important work, connecting future teachers to community funds of knowledge and resources so that all children have network of educators working to help them succeed.