For St. Lawrence’s education students and for St. Lawrence County
schools, it’s a quid pro quo.
By Jackie Roy ’04
Too many North Country high school students don’t know how to
read. St. Lawrence education students need 100 hours in classrooms
in addition to their “professional semester” of
These two situations mean there has never been a better
time for creating initiatives that link St. Law-rence’s graduate
programs with North Country schools, establishing partnerships that
both sides. Through programs such as the professional semester, tutoring
in reading and math, the Literacy and Theatre Project and the Teaching
Scholars Program (see related article for more on the latter), St.
Law-rence’s education department is finding itself more and more
connected with local schools, in mutually beneficial ways.
semester not only helps St. Lawrence students earn teaching certificates
in New York State, but also puts high school
students in contact with college students every day. For one semester
during their senior year, education students spend the day teaching
their major subject in schools in St. Lawrence County, possibly commuting
up to an hour from Canton.
According to Professor and Chair of Education
Jim Shuman, students participating in the professional semester are
faced with challenges
not encountered on the St. Law-rence campus. “Students learn
a huge amount about their major because they have to teach it,” he
says. “On the professional semester, they must look at their
subject material with new eyes.”
For St. Lawrence students who aren’t ready to make a full-semester
commitment or who want to discover whether teaching is for them, there
is the reading and math tutor program. Students spend eight to 12 hours
per week working with either elementary or high school students in
area schools, helping them to develop basic skills.
Andrew Swiesz ’03,
Plattsburgh, N.Y., has participated in the program for five semesters
and has worked at all levels, from high
school to elementary. “While I’m at St. Lawrence I want
to be involved in the community,” Swiesz says. “I am interested
in joining the Peace Corps and felt that learning early development
training techniques would benefit me.”
Victoria Rue, an adjunct
instructor in religious studies and speech and theatre, gave St. Lawrence
students yet another opportunity to
interact with local school students through the Literacy and Theatre
Project. A grant from the Verizon Foundation, through the Indepen-dent
College Fund of New York, helped Rue create a program to help local
schools improve literacy through theatre and sharing of personal
stories. According to Rue, the goal of the Literacy and Theatre Project
encourage both college and high school students to think about how
they read and write.
During the fall semester, St. Law-rence students
were mentors to high school students with reading challenges while
both groups shared their
life stories with each other and discussed how they learned to read
or what makes learning so difficult. Under the leadership of Rue and
Laurie Puzio ’03, Williamsville, N.Y., they then created a play
based on these stories and entitled Do You Read Me? The combined college
and high school ensemble performed it in several central St. Law-rence
County schools in March.
Rue says, “All of the students experienced
empowerment through the process of making theatre and then presenting
it to the audience.
They all shared a piece of themselves through this play. The most important
thing, though, is that the high school students got to work with students
from St. Law-rence, who showed that they really cared about their education.”
The education department continues its longstanding contribution to
North Country education by offering currently employed teachers the
opportunity to further their education and/or complete a master’s
degree. The department offers three graduate programs: general education,
counseling and development, and educational administration. Offering
these graduate courses ensures that local teachers have a nearby place
to receive training.
Every teacher must have a master’s, by state regulation,” Shuman
says. “We need to be able to provide this and be a support to
our North Country schools.
It’s a great service that St. Law-rence provides the region,” Shuman
says. “In return, they provide our students places to get the
experience they need for a professional education career.”
Jackie Roy is a graduate of a St. Lawrence County high school, having
grown up in Massena, N.Y. She was an intern in the Univer-sity communications
office in spring