Cardinals in the Classroom

November 16, 2020

There isn’t an industry, sector, or profession that hasn’t felt the jolting changes caused by the rapid spread of the novel coronavirus. But, it could be argued that education, in particular, has felt that disruption more than other entities, as teachers, administrators, students, and families experience new models of education together.

Collage of headshots of Lesli Myers-Small, Kimberly Brown, Brian Siesto, Gina Roselli, Megan Eddy, Matt DiGiambattista, Alivia Clark, and Tim Coon

In March, schools developed patchwork solutions to deliver content during quarantine, pivoting on the fly to complete the academic year. And over the summer, educators prepped for an unknown fall. Would schools be fully remote? Hybrid? Back in a classroom? For many, it’s a complicated mix of all three.

At each turn, professors in the Ralph C. Wilson, Jr. School of Education at St. John Fisher College worked side-by-side with current students and alumni to help teachers navigate the changes. To Dr. Joellen Maples, interim dean of the School, that’s why schools of education exist.

“It’s important that we’re ready to redesign, refocus, and create the best teachers, librarians, and leaders who can support their communities,” Maples said. “As a school, we aren’t afraid of assessing the education landscape and responding to student, parent, and teacher needs, and we have really stepped up and responded in helping students prepare and navigate this uncertain time.”

Professors hosted a two-day workshop for student-teachers offering online education training, virtual classroom management, and trauma-informed care. In the online library media graduate program, there was a special focus on how librarians can help teachers rethink instructional methods and ensure students have access to digital resources they need to complete their assignments. For those in the educational leadership and executive leadership graduate programs, professors challenged students to focus on this real-life experience and its effect on leadership styles.

The School, which was established in 2003, offers baccalaureate, master’s, and doctoral programs. In May, it received a full six-year accreditation from the Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP). Fisher is one of just 21 colleges in New York State to earn accreditation from CAEP, the sole nationally recognized accrediting body for educator preparation.

The School emphasizes a central philosophy of “teacher as advocate,” and five interrelated tenets of social justice—diversity, achievement, compassion, knowledge, and service—serve as guiding principles. Maples said that the School’s philosophy creates an environment that breeds innovation and collaboration among faculty and staff who are constantly thinking of new ways of teaching.

“The social justice framework is everywhere. It is the heartbeat of the school and is woven into our curriculum, field experiences, recruitment efforts, research, and projects. Our faculty, staff, and students believe it and espouse it,” she said. “And, collectively, it’s all of us together that set the School apart. We hold our candidates to high standards and ensure that they’re prepared to use technology, deliver culturally-responsive teaching, and be change agents for the students they serve.”

Since its opening, more than 3,200 teacher candidates have graduated from the College, carrying that message into school buildings across the country. Collegium sat down with elementary, middle and high school teachers and educational leaders to learn more about their own philosophies and how they’re adapting to teaching in the COVID-19 era.

A Champion and an Advocate - Dr. Lesli Myers-Small ’01 (M.S.), ’09 (Ed.D.)

Moving a School Forward - Brian Siesto ’10 (M.S.)

A Creative Approach to Classrooms - Gina Roselli ’12, ’15 (M.S.)

Bringing a Unique Perspective to Lessons - Matt DiGiambattista ’13 (MS), ’17 (M.S.)

Not Just a Teacher - Tim Coon ’09, ’12 (M.S.) 

Offering Students a Place to Connect - Megan Eddy ’19, ’20 (M.S.)

Teaching the Why - Kimberly Brown ’16 (M.S.) 

From Student to Teacher - Alivia Clark ’20