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John Monfredo: North High Students Explore Careers in Teaching

Saturday, February 23, 2013

 

“If you can dream it, you can do it” – Walt Disney

It was just last March that a major development took place at North High School. Dr. Betty H. Perkins, Today's Students Tomorrow's Teachers (TSTT) Founder and CEO, and Mrs. Patricia Lanza, President of the Lanza Family Foundation, announced at the ribbon cutting ceremony that 50 high school students from North High will participate in TSTT’s teacher career development program known as the Lanza TSTT Institute.

Mrs. Lanza, a New York philanthropist, and a long time supporter of TSTT and it’s educational initiatives in Yonkers, NY, selected North High after hearing about the school from a cousin of North High Principal, Matt Morse. Thus, the connection was made and the conversation started as to the availability of North High being one of the sites of the TSTT. Needless to say, North High was considered a perfect match for the TSTT program.

TSTT is a non-profit, full circle, career development organization. TSTT addresses the critical shortage of culturally diverse and highly effective teachers. It is a unique school-based mentoring program that recruits and mentors culturally diverse and economically challenged high school students who are interested in pursuing a career in teaching. This program provides financial assistance for students to attend college, and places them as teachers and leaders who will inspire and strengthen their communities.

It is Mrs. Lanza’s belief that the long-term investment will support the students on their journey to become teachers from 9th grade through college, and back into their classroom and communities as teachers. This commitment will also help ensure the academic performance of the growing number of diverse students in the Worcester Public Schools. The Lanza Family Foundation will cover the cost of the 50 students in the program for four years. Other costs in the program will be covered by the school district, partner colleges or from various donors or grants.

According to Dr. Perkins, the students depending when they enter the program could receive up to eight years of mentoring, college readiness, and teacher training. In addition, the students will have an opportunity to qualify for at least 50 percent tuition scholarship from one of the twenty-two TSTT partnering colleges who have agreed to assist the students. One such college working with North High is Lesley University located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Ideas are now in the works for the students to attend a week of summer training at their campus. In addition to the summer training at Lesley University the students have to complete 20 hours of a summer internship in which they will work in tutoring or assisting other students in the community.

The journey for North High’s Lanza TSTT Institute began last April. The first item of business was for the school to select a Regional Program Manager for the program. The school hired Erin Baffuto who was a staff member at North High School working in the GEAR UP (Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for undergraduate Programs) through the Colleges of the Worcester Consortium. Ms. Buffuto brings a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm to the position for she has a background in school counseling and social work as well as being very familiar with the ins and outs of higher education. More importantly in talking to her she affirmed her commitment to the program and her passion in wanting to make a difference in the lives of those 50 students who selected.

Ms. Buffuto stated that the program started in last spring with the recruit of the students. The school mailed information about the program to the home of every 9th grader in the building. In addition, classroom presentations and informational sessions were held throughout the building. The students who expressed interest in the program then had to complete an essay on “Why I want to become a teacher” and then have an interview with her. Ms. Buffuto was quick to point out that the assistance from staff and administration was essential in the selection process. Before she even came on board, Assistant Principal Ellie Lupafya had recruited 25 9th graders. At the present time there is a mix of 9th, 10th and 11th graders in the program.

The program has four teacher mentors who receive a stipend from TSTT and each mentor is engaged with a group of 12-13 TSTT students. The mentors, along with Ms. Buffuto, attend monthly meetings, training/workshops and other related events. At these monthly meetings discussions take place on monthly goals, the students receive updates on coming events and there is always a topic to discuss as part of the TSTT curriculum. According to Ms. Buffuto the topics include communication/team building, child abuse, violence prevention, goal setting/time management, media and technology literacy and much more.

In addition, a teaching technique is also discussed. The students use Doug Lemov’s “Teach Like a Champion” book. “Teach Like a Champion” is a collection of instructional techniques from years of observations of outstanding teachers in some of the highest-performing urban classrooms in the country. According the description of the program, the book package has 700 video clips of highly-effective teachers in action, has provided teachers nationwide with actionable tools to drive greater student achievement and has a shared language to discuss and support teacher effectiveness.

The students watch a video clip of a teaching technique with no prior knowledge followed by discussion with the mentors on how it is used and what the purpose of it is. Students then watch the same clip again with a different perspective. Ms. Buffuto acknowledged, “After seeing the clip with more understanding … there is an in-depth conversation about seeing it the first time and then seeing it again.”The students that I spoke to are very excited about the program and the opportunities that exist for them. Anissa Catino, a sophomore, said that she was recruited last April and was drawn to program because if you work hard in the program you can go to college and that will set you up for a career in teaching. She stated that she would like to go into teaching and assist students on the elementary level. Brooke Peterson, also a sophomore, loves the activities that go with the program and hopes that by going into teaching she can make a difference in the community.

Another student, Antoinette Mutuyimana, born in the South African country of Tanzania and a junior at the school, affirmed her excitement about the program and how this program motivates you to do better. She loves the tutor training and has been involved in helping students in the ACE program (African Community Education organization in Worcester). Antoinette acknowledged that the tutor training helped her to work with a variety of students who were on many different academic levels. She went on to say how amazing the program is for she always wanted to be a teacher and now she will have this great opportunity to be one.

All the students are energized and already see that the program training is moving them in the right direction. They enjoy working with their peers, sharing ideas and love the monthly workshops. There are so many benefits that this program provides to the students. In addition to the mentors and the 50 percent college tuition scholarship to partner college the students also have the following opportunities:

  • College Admissions Assistance
  • Access to KAPLAN SAT prep training programs
  • Tutor Training
  • Academic Assistance
  • High School & College Mentor
  • Practice Teaching and internships
  • Career Counseling
  • Opportunity for Employment in Teaching
  • Job Placement Assistance
  • and most importantly.... states Ms. Buffuto… TONS OF FUN!

The questions arises what about the students’ academic progress? Ms. Buffuto was quick to point out that it’s her job to follow all of the students’ progress during the year. Grades are given to the teacher mentors and during the monthly meetings the mentors interact with the students about their academic progress. Both Ms. Buffuto and the mentors work together to identify each student’s needs and how to provide assistance.

The program also has a Regional Advisory Council that collaborates with the school. The primary purpose of THE RAC is to advise and help provide resources for TSTT on issues about the program, including recruitment, development, fundraising, and any other issues affecting the implementation of TSTT.

TSTT is also attempting to reach out and establish community partners. To date Ms. Buffuto has invited a number of colleges, educational institutes, and social agencies to be part of program. “I’m looking for any group that is willing to support future teachers,” stated Ms. Buffuto.

The program is ambitious and has lofty goals for the students. Let’s wish them well and we’ll be checking back next year to hear about their progress.  

 

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