A team from SUNY New Paltz’s Hudson Valley Writing Project (HVWP) attended the U.S. Department of Education Teach to Lead summit in Washington, D.C. this month, with a proposal for an innovative model for supporting early-career teachers.
The November Teacher Prep Summit is one of many Teach to Lead events held nationwide to empower teachers and teacher candidates to help set the course for U.S. education policy.
The New Paltz delegation was one of just 16 teams (out of 90 applicants) invited to present plans for leveraging teacher leadership to strengthen teacher preparation programs.
Our group was led by Tom Meyer, associate professor and founding director of HVWP, and included current student Kathleen O’Malley ’16g (Adolescence Education), alumna Nicole Halabuda ’16g (Adolescence Education), and veteran Hudson Valley teachers Christine McCartney and Terri Weiss.
“My takeaway from the event is that teachers’ voices are valued in helping find solutions to some of the problems in education today,” O’Malley said. “I really enjoyed meeting educators and teacher candidates from across the country; exchanging ideas with them led to new insights for me about the issue of teacher retention.”
The HVWP group’s pilot proposal, titled “New Teachers as Learners and Leaders,” focuses on combating the trend of early-career educators leaving the profession, through the creation of support networks linking new and veteran teachers. It strengthens current School of Education models by establishing a bridge for early career teachers to sustain their education and access to the Hudson Valley Writing Project, the College and teacher leaders through the challenges they face as get their careers up and running.
The plan aims to reach early-career teachers like Halabuda, who accepted a classroom position in Newburgh, N.Y. following her May 2016 graduation and is now witnessing first-hand the obstacles to transitioning from theory to practice.
“I think that no matter how good the teacher preparation program, it’s nearly impossible to prepare someone for all of the possible realities of the classroom,” Halabuda said. “I have a very strong foundation thanks to the education I received at SUNY New Paltz, and I felt very confident transitioning from student to teacher, but there is certainly much more for me to learn.”
Should the HVWP teacher leadership program be implemented, teachers like Halabuda would be connected with veteran teachers, ideally in their districts, to help them navigate their entry into teaching, refine their knowledge of literacy instruction and reinforce the role that writing can play in learning and leading.
According to Halabuda, this vision is an extension of a teaching and writing network that the HVWP has already dedicated years to building. She’s looking forward to helping get the “New Teachers as Learners and Leaders” pilot up and running.
“I did a lot of research when it came time to select a graduate program, and the Hudson Valley Writing Project was really the deciding factor that drew me to New Paltz,” she said. “Knowing that this college supported an incredible community of teachers, writers, learners and leaders made me confident in my choice. Since I enrolled I’ve been involved with the HVWP in whatever way I can, and staying involved at this point is a no-brainer.”