Student teachers bring learning to a community in need

NEW PALTZ — The School of Education at the State University of New York at New Paltz has partnered with the Utica City School District to create a program that allows student teachers to live and teach in Utica as part of their major program. The partnership provides student teachers with real-world experience, and the district, which has been designated as “high need,” with assistance.

High-need districts are defined by socio-economic evaluations that primarily focus on how many students qualify for the free lunch program.

“The state requires that we provide students with experiences in communities with high need schools,” said Robert Michael, Dean of the New Paltz School of Education. “I had noted how diverse the city of Utica was and felt we could add it to our list of options for our students.”

The Utica program provides student-teachers the following no-cost benefits; lodging in dorm-style apartments, an Internet connection, breakfast and dinner seven days a week, a free membership at the Paragon Athletic Club, library and recreational use at Mohawk Community College, as well as bus service to and from their internship sites for those who are in need of transportation.

“(The program) is an attempt to get students interested in teaching in an urban setting,” said Rosario Dalia, coordinator of the SUNY New Paltz/Utica exchange project, “as well as enticing them to stay and teach in the school district once they have completed their degree requirements.”

Wendy Ham, a New Paltz graduate who participated in the exchange last semester, said, “The student teacher program between SUNY New Paltz and the Utica City School District was a wonderful opportunity for me. I found that the professionals in the Utica schools were extremely supportive, and the students were an exciting and challenging mix of cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. I am currently working full-time in the Utica district, and my appreciation for the people, as well as for the area of Utica, continues to increase every day.”

Currently, there are four student teachers participating in internships through the exchange program. Also, four student teachers participated in the program the previous semester. “This fall, we are hoping that even more students come to Utica,” said Dalia.

The SUNY New Paltz School of Education offers Bachelors and Masters degree programs that lead to teacher certification, a Certificate of Advanced Study in education administration and a collaborative doctorate in school leadership and policy development with SUNY Albany. For more information, contact the School of Education by calling (845) 257-2800, or logging on to their Web site at