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Dr. Shirley Sommers
Coordinator, Center for Urban Education
4245 East Avenue
Rochester NY, 14618
The Nazareth College School of Education has a long history of preparing teachers for teaching in urban schools, with a commitment to understanding the varying learning needs and potential of children of all backgrounds and life challenges.
The Center for Urban Education was formed as a hub for initiatives and programs that specifically address the needs and circumstances of urban schools, urban teachers, and urban children. Some of those programs are highlighted here.
Rochester City School District Student Services
Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs (GEAR UP)
Nazareth College has several ongoing partnerships with schools in the Rochester City School District. Dr. Sommers is the director of the administration of a partnership between Bioscience, Global and Media Arts, International Finance at Franklin and East High Schools and Nazareth College GEAR UP Programs. The partnership is currently in its fourth year. GEAR UP provides four programs, namely, college coaching, whereby Nazareth students go into classrooms and work with teachers in developing academic behaviors and attitudes conducive toward college attendance, professional development for teachers, career awareness for students, and evaluation of the GEAR UP programs.
Professional Development for Teachers
The School of Education provides professional development opportunities for the RCSD teachers, some of these include the Inquiry Project, Professional Learning Community, Bilingual Education Certificate, and the Professional Development Grant.
Practicum Placements of Naz Students
The office of Field Placement in the School of Education places Nazareth College students in many RCSD schools. Such placements provide an opportunity for students to learn about effective teaching methods in urban environments.
Teacher Preparation for Urban Schools
In collaboration with the Rochester City School District and its community partners, the TOC program helps prepare teachers of color to address the learning needs of students in high-need schools. Beyond meeting requirements for teaching certification, TOC participants are mentored by effective teachers and are involved in extensive professional development and community based learning experiences. Students from high-need schools who are tutored for 40 hours by TOC pre-services teachers consistently meet academic goals. TOC fosters continued growth in TOC graduates by mentoring them beyond their first year of teaching and providing them with professional development opportunities through their teaching careers. Since 1989, more than 120 TOC graduates have taught in RCSD schools, and most importantly, TOC graduates have more than a 98 percent retention rate in the first five years of teaching.
Helen C. and Walter Cooper Institute on Urban Education
The Urban Institute contributes to the development of future urban teachers and broader knowledge on urban education by bringing eminent speakers on campus and conducting workshops for Nazareth College students and the Rochester community. Gaynelle Wethers, Director of Multicultural Affairs, says that the Institute is "designed to engage students and faculty, RCSD board members, teachers, and parents in rethinking and reformulating the curriculum and instruction needed to effectively prepare Nazareth College graduates for leadership."
Site Based Courses
"The question my students ask is 'Why does it have to be specific to children of color when application can be made to all children?'. I agree with them and say because all the other books are not called 'Teaching the White Kids' and yet that is what they are about. Our society in its political correctness tries to minimize difference and therefore in education we perpetuate the practice of teaching the way we were taught, using expectations, assumptions, and analogies that were perhaps valid and applicable to our lives. Doing this we lose students whose lives and experiences are different than the growing up lives of many of today's pre-service teachers. We need to make the differences in culture/communities real and overt if teachers are going to employ methods and approaches that are responsive to the culture they teach in, applicable to the lives of their students, and effective in equipping students with skills of learning and perspective taking. Teaching in an urban school makes the difference of children real and the inequity in education blatant. Trying to teach this, communicate this, in the safety of a college classroom, at best, leaves these concepts in an abstract vacuum. The opportunity to teach in an urban setting communications volumes much more effectively than I ever could." - Dr. Ellen Contopidis, Assistant Professor of Inclusive Childhood Education on the importance of site based courses.
Regional School Project
The Regional School Project is a study to determine the feasibility of creating a public school in the Greater Rochester Area whereby students attend from urban, suburban and rural environments. The Regional School Project began in 2006 in an attempt to de-concentrate the oppressive poverty in the City of Rochester. In September of 2008 work in earnest began to plan a regional school that would fill 50% of its seats with urban youth and 50% of children from the suburbs and rural communities of Monroe County. To date, well over 100 teachers, administrators, parents, students and child advocates have joined hands to form work groups that are designing the curriculum/instruction/assessment and overall design of the school. The school is intended to serve students from age three until graduation from high school and beyond.