The Albany Professional Development Center, located in Philip Livingston Middle School, has expanded its scope and staff for the 1989-90 schoolyear. Opening in September of last year, the center’s goal is to improve classroom instruction by providing professional growth opportunities for practicing and pre-service teachers. Dr. Nelson Armlin, CASDA Associate Director, and John Bach, Superintendent of Schools, coordinate the University at Albany-City School District of Albany partnership. The Center is directed by Dee Warner and staffed by Connie Feldt, Janice Migliorato and Jerry Rivera, all experienced teachers and doctoral students in Instructional Psychology at the University at Albany. Dewey Hill, an Albany City Schools teacher, coordinates the Albany Mentor Teacher Internship Program from the Center and contributes to Center programs. The combined energies and financial support of educators from both institutions and the Albany community have resulted in a wide variety of collaborative ventures.
The School of Education at the University at Albany administers the “I Have a Dream Project,” whose students are now eighth-graders in Albany’s middle schools. Janice Mwapaga, Project Coordinator and Neal Currie, Assistant Coordinator, work closely with the Center and involve Livingston staff and students in many collaborative projects. For example, each semester approximately 35 Educational Psychology students work directly with teachers and students in their classrooms in a tutorial program. This fall, about 15 graduate students in the School of Education’s Counseling and Guidance programs will spend one day per week assisting in Philip Livingston and Hackett Middle School’s classrooms and guidance offices.
This infusion of educators both stimulates and nourishes students and teachers. That stimulation extends beyond the school and classroom in another exciting cooperative project, the Career Awareness Program at Livingston. Funded by a grant from the Council for Community Development of the University at Albany Foundation, the Career Awareness Program involves teams of students, teachers and local business personnel who introduce students to the “world of work.” Students study interviewing techniques, explore media production, meet with businessmen and women, prepare materials outlining careers and their connections to schooling, and develop organizational and social skills pertinent to the job market. The program’s unique nature was described by a teacher participant who stated “these are not field trips to ‘expose’ students to the workplace, the business hosts are active teacher partners in the entire experience.”
The partnership theme emerges again and again in all activities of the Professional Development Center. This year, The Center is launching a major initiative to coordinate support, services and resources to assist beginning teachers in their first year of teaching. Las June, a committee of teachers, administrators and Center staff designed and wrote a proposal for New York State Education Department funding for a Mentor Teacher Internship Program for the Albany City School District. An Advisory Committee was appointed to represent teachers and administrators and approved by the Teacher’s Union. They selected a Teacher Coordinator for the Mentor/Intern Program and teachers to serve as mentors. The goal of the program, in addition to aiding the novice teacher, is to encourage new teachers to view the Albany City School District as a desirable place to teach. The Center strives to enhance Albany’s desirability by its “school based” professional growth approach. Services structured by Center staff to give direct, non-threatening support include:
Consultation about content, teaching strategies and professional issues.
Classroom demonstrations and modeling.
Classroom observation and feedback.
Links with teachers within the district, at the University and in neighboring districts.
Research on content and pedagogy.
Modeling of the collaborative process.
Recognition of the individual qualities of each school and the common elements of teaching in urban settings led to a collaborative program funded by the Greater Capital Region Teacher Center. Last spring, two conferences on Urban Education were held at the Albany Professional Development Center. English and Math teachers from middle schools in Albany, Schenectady and Troy met on separate occasions for three days to reflect, discuss, develop; and share individual action plans, materials and strategies for teaching at risk students. The conferences modeled collaborative efforts by:
Connecting University professors to conference participants.
Encouraging participants to shape the conference to meet their goals.
Providing a time and place conducive to reflection and discussion.
Focusing on the concerns of urban educators.
Linking teachers with common student populations from different schools and districts.
Producing a newsletter and material to be shared with colleagues not in attendance.
The need for educators to talk to one another, work closely together, and develop problem solving strategies has never been greater. All participants in the schooling of young people, especially those serving schools with large at-risk student populations, must seek ways to address common concerns and support increased student success. The initiative, commitment and continued support provided by the University at Albany, the Albany City School District and the Albany business community position the Albany Professional Development Center to help educators collaborate and work to ensure student success.