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Education Academy Promotes Equity in Education and Prepares Tomorrow’s Teachers Today

Since 2017, Baldwin UFSD has collaborated with Molloy College to establish the Education Academy, where Baldwin High School students take credit-bearing courses toward a teaching degree and gain hands-on K-12 teaching experience within Baldwin schools. The Education Academy is one of the seven different Academic Academies—the district’s award-winning school-to-career program. As of today, 30 students are enrolled in the Education Academy, and this number is expected to grow over the next few years. What makes this program especially unique is that it addresses many important issues in education: teacher shortage, diversity in the profession, and college debt.

Addressing Equity in Education and Teacher Shortage
One of the goals of the Education Academy is to help diversify the teaching profession. In addition, with the teacher shortage crisis, the demand for K-12 teaching jobs is expected to increase 5% per year through 2028.

“Equity in education continues to be an issue not just across state, but the entire country,” explains Dr. Shari Camhi, superintendent of schools, who came up with the idea for the Education Academy just a few years ago after seeing a shortage of diverse candidates for teaching and administrative positions. “We have implemented a program that will help to provide Baldwin and other school districts with diverse, exceptionally qualified and caring educators.”

In partnership with Molloy College, the Education Academy maps a direct path for students to successfully transition from high school into Molloy as sophomores and back to Baldwin UFSD to complete their student teaching requirements their senior year of college.

College and Career Readiness Decreases Student Debt
The goal of the Academic Academies is to provide students with a multitude of learning experiences to gain the skills and knowledge necessary to succeed in the world of work. By allowing students the opportunity to start a career path prior to graduating high school, students will save on the costs associated with college and job training. In 2020, the student loan debt hit an all-time high of $1.56 trillion, with the average student owing $32,731.

Students enroll in the Education Academy their freshman year, earn college credit at a reduced tuition and gain hands-on teaching experiences during their senior year of high school, and ultimately enter Molloy College as sophomores. The Education Academy is also a great way for students to test the waters and determine if teaching is what they want to do for the rest of their lives. Some students may think they want to pursue a particular career but after participating in an academy, learn that it may not be the best fit before attending a four-year school. This opportunity helps students decide.
A change of degree can delay college graduation, cost credits, and ultimately, lead to more debt.

“I like that the program gives you a chance to get real world experiences and that it really helps you know what it is like working with kids,” explains Baldwin High School sophomore, Emilia Rebore-Nardone.

“We had the opportunity to speak to teachers from outside of the classroom and get advice on going into this profession,” added Lily Stuart, an 11th grader.

Developing Exceptional Educators
The required courses for the Education Academy are linked with field experience, interdisciplinary instruction, and projects, while electives provide career focus to existing curriculum to enhance the development of the skills required for the teaching profession. Courses include Contemporary Topics in Education, Mindfulness, Introduction to Teaching, as well as Critical Issues in Education and Foundations of Education – both of which are dual enrollment courses with Molloy College.

During Introduction to Teaching, which was added just this fall, students engage with students at the elementary level right within the district. The students focus on lesson planning, learn about state and national standards to form their lessons, as well as classroom management, professional expectations and certification requirements.

“I really like that the program is interactive and we actually get to work with the kids from different elementary schools. I have learned that being a teacher is not as easy as it looks, but this program does a really good job of providing us with the information and help that we need,” said Tiara Gordon, an 11th grader.

Promoting Learning Under Any Circumstance
This year, the Education Academy students have had the unique experience of learning to teach virtually and finding creative ways to help students learn effectively in a remote environment. The students are working with a variety of tools that many teachers today have yet to master. The high school students have conducted lessons with Brookside students during recess and have also taught remote classes at Plaza Elementary School.

“With everything happening with COVID, we are still able to be involved and shadow classes virtually, which has been great! So far, I’ve learned a lot about specific teaching strategies and how to handle certain classroom situations. I’ve learned what I will need to do in order to prepare myself for college teaching programs. Having this academy available to students is super beneficial. I think it’s an amazing opportunity for a head start,” said Lily.

“We need to ensure we are preparing aspiring teachers to be the best educators possible and to be prepared for anything that comes our way. We recognized this in Baldwin, and so far, the feedback has been very positive,” said Dr. Camhi. “Our hope is to see many of our students teaching not just here in Baldwin but throughout the country in the future.”

For more information about the Education Academy, please visit the district website at: www.baldwinschools.org/academies

This article originally appeared in the spring 2021 issue of the Baldwin Beat. See Baldwin Beats >>