|Teachers from Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties explored new techniques and strategies to help them become more effective mentors to students in Marymount’s Inclusive Education Program.
Photo by Bruce Gilbert
Twenty-five inclusive-education teachers who supervise student-teachers from Marymount College of Fordham University spent two days last August learning techniques to help make them better mentors. The seminar, funded by a $10,000 state Department of Education grant from the Higher Education Taskforce on Quality Inclusive Education, was part of Marymount’s comprehensive Inclusive Education Program, which has become a model for schools nationwide.
“The Childhood Inclusive Education Program (grades 1-6) and the Adolescent Inclusive Education Program (grades 7-12) demonstrate how teachers can be better prepared to serve the needs of all learners,” wrote Gerald M. Mager, chair of the Higher Education Taskforce on Quality Inclusive Education, in a letter assessing the Marymount program. “Marymount programs have been highlighted at national and state conferences…and are influencing local schools and districts, and other regional colleges as well.”
Under the inclusive-education model, students with disabilities are fully integrated into traditional classrooms, an effort to ensure that all public-school students receive equal educational opportunities as mandated by federal and state law. In 1995, New York state officials asked a number of universities to rework their teacher-training programs to better prepare teachers to work with students with a range of learning capabilities.
“The problem was and is that there are a lot of educators who are not familiar with the strategies, techniques and differentiation needed to work with all children,” said Neil Garofano, Ed.D., chair of the Inclusive Education Program at Marymount, who conducted the seminar. “We discovered that teachers are capable of doing it, they just need the education and training. We changed our program so that when our students leave here, they get dual certification as a regular-education teacher and a special-education teacher.”
A key aspect of the Marymount Inclusive Education Program is its field-centered curriculum, in which students accumulate 150 hours of field training before they become student-teachers in their senior years. During the August training—attended by educators from Westchester, Putnam and Rockland counties—teachers shared their thoughts on the responsibilities of both the professionals and student-teachers in the classroom. They also learned techniques on how best to communicate with their student-teachers in a way that encourages collaboration.
The seminar was also attended by professors from area colleges and universities looking for ways to improve their own student-teacher training programs. On the second day of the seminar, participants made recommendations on ways to enhance student-teaching for both mentor and trainee.
Garofano hopes to work with professors at area colleges and universities to develop an institute “whereby we’ll do this kind of thing every year—maybe even more than once a year—so that we can improve the quality of the student-teaching experience along with our colleagues at other institutions.”