Oceanside students who are considering a teaching career got a wonderful opportunity to take a deep look at the profession on Oct. 25.
About 75 students from Oceanside High School, Oceanside Middle School, as well as students from Long Beach, Farmingdale, Rockville Centre and Brentwood, attended Take A Look At Teaching, or TALAT, workshops at LIU Post.
The National Education Association and New York State United Teachers devote grant money to fund TALAT clubs, encouraging interested students to think about becoming teachers, with a focus on populations that are not readily represented in the teaching field, such as men and women of color.
Several workshops were held throughout the day, featuring such topics as how to build classroom communities, why teaching matters, and what teachers need to know.
Rob Pittman, president of the Oceanside Federation of Teachers, presented a workshop on the role the union plays for teachers and communities.
“This is a terrific day,” Pittman said. “TALAT is a great program. We’re hoping that the district sees value in it, and I think they do.”
Several educators who have been named Teacher of the Year were in attendance, including 2021 NYS Teacher of the Year Jennifer Wolfe of Oceanside High School.
“Kids can see that it’s not just about marking papers and making lessons,” Wolfe said. “The job is much bigger than that, and it’s much more important than that.”
Oceanside School District is in its second year of holding a TALAT club. High school teacher Helen Dixon is advisor for the school’s club, and Wolfe oversees both clubs at the middle and high schools. About 35 students are involved in the high school club, where students receive experience of being in the classroom from a teacher’s perspective. LIU sophomore Hannah Field presented one of the workshops, detailing why being a teacher is the best job for students.
“You’re making a huge impact on kids’ lives every day, and then those kids go on to do great things,” she said.
Oceanside High School juniors Helen Henderson, Toby Iovino, Martha Brooks and Sarah Werman, all members of the TALAT club, participated in the LIU workshops and all plan to go into teaching careers.
“I really enjoyed it, and I thought it was fun,” Werman said. “I think teaching matters because that’s how you become who you are. Teachers want to help you learn what you want to do, and I think that’s cool.”
Dixon teaches a College Education course at the High School, which is in partnership with LIU and students, can receive college credits through taking and completing the course. The course also has TALAT club ambassadors, where senior students serve as mentors to younger TALAT cub members. The students all take several classes to prepare for a potential teaching career, including early childhood development, which Dixon teaches.
“I think what’s really important is knowing their background and what’s important to them, whether it’s culture, whether it’s like their family dynamics,” Henderson said. “Stuff outside the classroom is very important and how that might be affecting them in the classroom.”
“A good teacher is a teacher who is willing to connect with the students and is willing to adapt to the student’s needs,” Iovino said.
The TALAT initiative is based on concerns about the teacher shortage nationwide, which officials don’t foresee getting any better.
“They estimate 180,000 teachers need to be hired in the next decade in New York State alone, and that number could end up being higher,” Cary Epstein, LIU’s assistant dean of education, said.
Laura Seinfeld, LIU’s dean of education, said she wants to help build and diversify the pipeline of teachers, and one way of accomplishing this is by having more high school students take dual enrollment courses to earn college credits.
Seinfeld, a former superintendent, teacher and school administrator, worked closely with Phyllis Harrington, superintendent of the Oceanside School District, acting as her assistant superintendent for five years when Harrington served as superintendent at the Oyster Bay-East Norwich Central School District.
“I’m having some conversations with Phyllis Harrington, a friend and an ally, and as a result, we’ve had a number of collaborations between Oceanside and Long Island University,” Seinfeld said. “I’m working with a number of superintendents, including Dr. Harrington, to help them see a pathway for their high school and middle school students into a career in teaching. Possibly through the pathway of programs, we have an LIU but if not, there are many other great programs. I get the feeling that our partnership is only going to continue.”