Mount Saint Mary College Students get Hands on in Newburgh Classrooms

In a small, cheerful classroom with colorful posters and lots of books at Cornwall-on-Hudson Elementary School, nine boys and girls settled into their seats as Claudine Cottini prepared to teach a lesson in counting.

Julie Hahn (left) Claudine Cottini (right)

[Supervised by Mount Saint Mary College alumna Julie Hahn (bachelor’s ’05, master’s '08)]

Cottini is pursuing a master’s degree in education at the Mount. She worked as an accountant in New York City for 13 years.  Wanting to“make a real difference in the lives of children,” the mother of two abandoned her business career and went back to school. Learning to differentiate instruction for kindergarten and first grade students with wide-ranging abilities has proved “very challenging, yet rewarding,” said Cottini.

Student teaching is preparing Cottini for her own classroom by allowing her to practice different strategies to help students refocus.  For example, with link behavior management, students earn plastic links for making good choices, or exhibiting appropriate behavior, that can be traded in for stuffed animals. Hahn, her supervisor, has been teaching the special education self contained classsince she started working at the elementary school six years ago and loves having Mount students in her room. Long before they stand before a classroom of their own, Mount students practice what they’re learning by serving in the community through hours of supervised classroom experience. “Field work-- embedded in coursework -- starts in the sophomore year,” said Dr. Reva Cowan, chair of the education program.  “This is a distinctive feature at the Mount.  We start earlier than many other colleges getting our students in actual classrooms.  We provide a very supportive environment, though, with students, their professor and their peers in the classroom together.” Senior Christina Campisi was placed at Valley Central High School in Montgomery, N.Y., working alongside Valley Central teacher Anna Leo ’02. Valley Central also boasts recent New York State Teacher of the Year Debra Calvino, who graduated from the Mount with a mathematics degree. Campisi plans on certification in adolescent/special education and graduate studies inspeech pathology.  And she chose Mount Saint Mary College because a degreefrom the Mount she said, would help her “stand out above other candidates." Campisi learned that “teaching is definitely a lot more work than most people think." At Fostertown Elementary School in Newburgh, student teacher Justin Lewis noted that to work with 22 first graders, planning is key, but inprovising is pertinent.

“Even though I may have spent a great deal of time preparing a lesson plan,”explained Lewis, “sometimes I need to change it up because it takes less or more time than expected.  Sometimes students will ask lots of questions and that leads to going in a slightly different direction. You need to plan, but also be prepared to respond in the moment.” History major Deborah Carroll said the program has prepared her well with a strong foundation of textbook situations, tests she needs to take and methods of teaching. The busy student teacher added that “it's a good feeling knowing that you are having an impact on these children's lives."

By the time they finish their senior field experiences, they’ve grasped skills needed to manage their classroom time and course work well.  And they’ve received strong examples of excellence in teaching from Mount faculty.  Article and photos provided by MSMC