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Teaching Resources

Talking Shop

Technically Speaking

I Remember Professor...

Good Teachers on Good Teaching

Mutual Benefits

A Win-Win-Win-Win Situation

Viggo Mortensen '80 Remembers

Laurentian Reviews

Alumni Accomplishments

Table of Contents

A Win-Win-Win-Win Situation
With the Teaching Scholars Program, St. Lawrence students, local high school
students, their teachers and the school districts all benefit

By Jessica Knapp ’03

 It isn’t often that all sides win, but with the Teaching Scholars Program at St. Lawrence, local high school students, their teachers, St. Lawrence students and the local communities all come out ahead.

In only its second year, the program has sent St. Lawrence science and mathematics students to work with teachers in area central schools such as Heuvelton, Potsdam, Massena, Lisbon and Canton. In these schools the St. Lawrence students are encouraged to pursue careers as math and science teachers, the students in the schools are getting one-on-one support from someone closer to their age, and the public schools are getting extra help from future teachers in an era when budget cuts mean fewer resources of their own. And that helps the pocketbooks of local taxpayers.

“ The most important part of this program is that the students I work with look up to me,” says Michelle Zugermayr ’04 of Watertown, N.Y. She drives to Lisbon Central School, about 15 minutes from Canton in the heart of St. Lawrence Valley farm country, to help out in a 7th grade science class. “I am a college student, and to a 7th grader, that seems to be a big deal,” she says. In the classroom, the college students are not only helping to act as teachers to the students, but also as role models, she points out.

The college students are role models not only for their knowledge of their subject, but also for their experiences. Matt Kokoszka ’03, a biology major from Meriden, Conn., says, “The students get interested in college and what college is all about. The juniors and seniors especially want to know what college is like and especially how it is different from high school.”

Zugermayr echoes this idea. “I have found that 7th-graders can conceive of going to college; however, when it comes to anything more concrete that, they draw a blank,” she says. “I bring a personality to the classroom that complements their teacher very well. She provides the structure while I provide a little excitement for the students. I am something ‘new’ in their classroom, and who doesn’t like a little change?”

Zugermayr and Kokoszka didn’t participate in the program solely for the benefit of the students they teach; they each get something out of it too. “The most valuable lesson I will take away from this program is that in order to connect with a student you must inject yourself into the student’s thoughts,” Zugermayr says. “You have to let yourself think the way your students would so you can plan effective lessons and discussions.”

Heading into the program, Kokoszka didn’t know if he wanted to be a teacher. He says that throughout the experience he learned that he has a personality appropriate to the teaching profession. “I have a better sense of what it takes to teach. And from that I learned that I want to be a teacher,” Kokoszka says. “I strongly recommend the program to people who want to teach after college—it gives you a first-hand chance to see what it is like.”

The program not only gives science and mathematics majors personal experience teaching in K-12 classrooms. It also provides classroom assistance and active learning support (that is, curricular materials) to math and science teachers in area schools, and facilitates communication and the exchange of ideas among local K-12 math and science teachers. In the end, the professional development of both the K-12 teachers and their counterparts at St. Law-rence, who may be tomorrow’s teachers, is boosted.

The Teaching Scholars Program is funded by the National Science Foundation and administered through the Independent Colleges Office, a Washington, D.C.-based coalition of select liberal arts colleges across the nation that has joined with the American Association of Community Colleges and the Council of Independent Colleges in this pilot project. In addition to developing interest in K-12 mathematics and science teaching careers among undergraduate students, the project seeks to focus greater national attention on the critical need for collaborative partnerships to ensure the vitality of local schools across the nation. So, ultimately, it is the local communities that benefit, through a better-educated force of young people. St. Law-rence contributes over $50,000 of its own funds to the project, which is coordinated by Assistant Professor of Education Esther R. Oey.

“ The program brings to life another resource for local schools to access,” says Zugermayr. It’s a resource that creates better education now, and better educators tomorrow.

University communications intern Jessica Knapp ’03, of Boulder, Col., hopes to become a teacher and coach herself one day.