State and city initiatives, such as “Teachers of Tomorrow” or the “Master Teacher” program, aim to keep educators in the classroom by boosting paychecks—by $20,000 per year in some cases—for working in high-needs schools or becoming a coach to fellow teachers.
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At New Dorp High School on Staten Island, there’s a different tactic at work: Getting young people excited early so they’ll one day enter the field. The principal, Deirdre DeAngelis, said the Teachers Academy, which incoming students can request to join, is almost always full.
“I hear from seventh-graders, ‘Please, please, please save me a seat. There’s nothing more I want to do in my life other than be a teacher,’” she said. “This cycle of cultivating our own teachers is really remarkable, because you get to mold really solid, confident, prepared teachers.”
Before sophomore year, Toni Ann Wade wasn’t convinced that she wanted to become a teacher. Then she took a “teaching methodology” course with teacher Dianne Esposito. Esposito spends a good deal of time emphasizing the importance of building student-teacher relationships—and models that by building them with her own students, whom she calls her “children.”
After realizing the impact she could have, Wade’s mind is now set on becoming a teacher.
“It made you see the other side of teaching. It’s not paperwork. It’s relationships,” she said. “Someone could see my name on a [class] schedule and get excited … It’s cool to think you could be that person one day.”
Not every aspect of teaching is so rewarding, the New Dorp students learn. Sure, there’s summer vacations. But Frank Guglielmo, who teaches a “Foundations in Education” elective, makes sure his students get a taste of the hard work that comes with delivering an effective lesson.
Over the course of six months, Guglielmo leads students through reading a popular book, picking a chapter to teach, drafting a lesson plan and then, finally, presenting it to their classmates.
“Getting up to teach a lesson is actually quite challenging for some kids,” Guglielmo said. “Preparation is paramount, and we cover that in so many ways.”
Chamald Martin, a junior, didn’t realize how tough the job could be until he learned the planning that goes into standing in front of a class for 45 minutes and, as he puts it, saying something that makes sense.
“I thought it was overnight—you did it before you went to sleep. You gave the lesson the next day,” he said. “That’s what I thought.”
Perhaps the most valuable part of the program comes senior year, when students take on internships in local elementary schools. In college-level teacher-preparation programs, aspiring teachers often wait until well into the program to spend significant time in a real classroom.
New Dorp’s approach of starting early is beneficial, said Deirdre Armitage, a director at the College of Staten Island School of Education.