SUNY Oneonta representatives, including President Alberto J.F. Cardelle, visited the Sidney Central School District this week to tour the new Red Dragon Room, as well as see students immersed in a new partnership program.
The collaborative program, which began this past fall, allows SUNY Oneonta students to be immersed into Sidney CSD classrooms and gives hands-on teacher training experiences to students majoring in early childhood education or childhood education.
The partnership also addresses the teacher shortage in the region. During their block semester, which focuses on teaching methods, SUNY Oneonta pre-service teachers complete their coursework at the university on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. On Wednesdays, they spend a full day at Sidney CSD, implementing lesson plans in collaboration with classroom teachers. On Fridays, they have the opportunity to work as paid substitute teachers within the district.
“For me, this kind of program is taking the hands-on approach to the next level,” Cardelle said. “This is integrating students quicker and deeper. When they graduate, the students feel they are ready to hit the ground running. This not only benefits our students, but it benefits the community and the region.”
This past fall, 28 SUNY Oneonta block students worked in 14 classrooms at Sidney CSD. The district also hosted six SUNY Oneonta student teachers. Because of the success of the initial program, more teachers were interested in having student teachers in their classrooms this spring.
Of those fall student teachers, three are now employed as long-term substitutes at Sidney.
The program is also seeing rapid growth. This spring, 78 Oneonta students will be in Sidney, or at the Cullman Center, for the block semester. Spring semester student teachers have also doubled, with 12 scheduled for Sidney. Seven of those teachers were among the fall block students at Sidney.
Block students, when in the district, work with small groups. This is pre-student teaching, said Sidney CSD Director of School Improvement Tony Stenta.
“This is beneficial for us as our teachers have extra hands,” Stenta said. “They can work individually and in small groups with students to support the teachers instruction and to help close instructional gaps.”
Students in this program are treated as first-year teachers at Sidney. They are part of Professional Learning Community groups within the district, as well as attend curriculum meetings, and can take part in professional development opportunities, and grade-level meetings.
The hope is this level of involvement within its culture will generate interest from these students in future vacancies at the district.
“This is an important partnership to have with SUNY Oneonta,” Sidney CSD Superintendent Eben Bullock said. “It allows our district to be part of the learning process for future students. It gives real-time experience to the students, as well as allowing them to be in a classroom setting, interact with teachers and students, and prepare them for the future. We’re extremely excited for this collaboration and feel it benefits our community immensely.”
The Red Dragon Room is an integral part of the program. A large former classroom, the room is a quiet and comfortable room that allows Oneonta students a place to relax during open periods, but also collaborate and debrief with fellow students and Oneonta advisers. Students have also taken a hand in making it their own space.
“It’s very functional and relaxing,” Cardelle said. “Students feel comfortable. You need a space like this to continue learning.”
Being able to work with their fellow students and developing a collaborative process is important, Stenta said.
“It gives them a collaborative space,” he said. “That is something our staff has on a daily basis. It’s important to have that for these students. It’s part of the collaborative model our teachers embrace, so it’s important for the SUNY Oneonta students as well.”