This Brooklyn high school hopes to train the teachers of tomorrow
Former Brooklyn High School principal Connie Hamilton noticed something over the years: Many of her former students wanted to work at the schools she ran.
“Tons of them wanted jobs with us. They wanted to be teachers and paras and school aides and guidance counselors,” said Hamilton, who retired earlier this school year as principal of John Dewey High School, and had previously run two schools in the times – Kingsborough Early College School and Dewey. “When kids love their schools and love their teachers, and teachers do a good job, kids want to be teachers.”
Hamilton ended up mentoring and hiring former students, but she wanted to create a more sustainable pipeline.
A longtime proponent of career-focused education, she dreamed of opening a teaching academy for high school students to help build a pipeline of Brooklyn educators and spent years trying to get there. His vision finally paid off in September when Dewey welcomed 34 students into his inaugural teaching and learning class.
In addition to taking high school courses in pedagogy and social-emotional support to teach children, students also have the opportunity to earn college credits through CUNY to launch a career in education. Eventually, a college should rise next to the campus where high school students can teach students.
The launch of the program comes at a crucial time. State officials are increasingly concerned about a looming teacher shortage and are also looking for ways to diversify the education workforce. Enrollment in state education programs has more than halved since 2009, and about a third of current teachers are expected to retire in the next five years, Governor Kathy Hochul said when announcing the recent proposals to attract more New Yorkers to education.
The journey to create Dewey’s program was long and winding, and finally took off because someone else had a similar idea at the same time as Hamilton: Mark Treyger, then a Brooklyn City Councilman. The former teacher and head of the city council’s education committee helped secure funding for the CUNY collaboration as well as the money to build a 550-seat middle school that will serve as a foster school for Dewey and a lab for the future student teachers.
“I think it’s a game-changer for us. We recruit the best and the brightest in our own neighborhood,” said Treyger, who now works as the Department of Education’s director of intergovernmental affairs. “The state of our teaching workforce is something that concerned me even before the pandemic. People feel exhausted. They don’t feel respected. They feel undervalued, and that has been exacerbated by the pandemic. »
He was also concerned about the permanent shortage of bilingual educators, particularly in special education. He hopes the program will encourage some of the school’s multilingual students to enter the teaching profession – and ease the financial burden by allowing students to earn college credit while in high school.
“It’s a matter of fairness,” he said. “Here we could inspire people to go deeper into the profession, or they feel like it’s not for me and they don’t have to spend money on it in college.”
The education program has not yet been certified as an early college program or a career and technical education program, or CTE, but the school hopes it will be in the future, leaders said. ‘establishment.
Currently, students in the Dewey Education Program can take college courses taught by Kingsborough Community College instructors in high school and earn college credit. In the first semester, they took Spanish, and now they are taking a computer course. The goal is for students to eventually earn a high school diploma and an associate’s degree in education that will allow them to be paraprofessionals while attending Brooklyn College to work toward their degrees. of teaching.
When Hamilton took charge of Dewey about seven years ago following a grade-correction scandal, she saw students ‘falling through the cracks’, so she tried to return the school ‘more personal’, creating several career-oriented tracks, including culinary arts and pre-medication. She thought the programs would give students something to get excited about.
It seems to have worked: Enrollment, which had fallen to 1,900 when she took over, she said, is now around 2,300.
Just as Dewey took hold of the CTE model, the field of vocational and technical education appears to be experiencing a resurgence, with state education officials seeking to increase funding for these programs by $65 million. Mayor Eric Adams and Chancellor David Banks also expressed support for career-focused programs.
Ninth-grade student Eve Smith wakes up at 5:50 a.m. each morning to make the 2-hour drive from her home in Jamaica, Queens, to the Gravesend, Brooklyn campus to join the academy of ‘education.
“Everyone around me always told me I would be a great teacher,” said the 14-year-old, who previously served as a tutor to her peers and younger children. “I feel like how students see their teachers is completely different from how teachers see their students. As a teacher, I want to clarify that…I want to be a teacher that students can count. If they need help, I want to be there for them. They don’t have to be afraid if they have questions.
Smith hopes she can start working sooner than some of her peers because she’s already racking up college credits and may only have to complete two years of college after high school.
Dewey’s new principal, Heather Adelle, plans to double the number of ninth graders entering the program next year to 68, and is optimistic that program graduates will become the teachers of tomorrow.
“We’re really excited to have these pipelines that we can build here in South Brooklyn,” she said, “to foster a love of education and for students to understand that there are unlimited possibilities for their future.”