Understanding cultural diversity in classrooms, especially in urban schools is the focus of a new Center for Urban Education at Canisius College in Buffalo. WBFO's Senior Reporter Eileen Buckley says the center will provide future teacher training for urban classrooms.
“I absolutely fell in love with the African American culture and just the urban placement. I loved it. I absolutely loved it. That’s where I want to be and that's where I want to teach,” declared Emily Dorward.
Dorward was reflecting on her experience as a student-teacher at a Buffalo Public School. She is in her senior year at Canisius in the Education Department and the college is one of the partners with the Buffalo Promise Neighborhood. Buffalo Promise currently works with three city schools, supporting programs and providing resources.
The college has added a new partner, the National Urban Alliance for Effective Education. Eric Cooper is president. He said the college's Jesuit mission for social justice was the perfect fit to develop the Center for Urban Education.
"This is a hopeful college. It believes in the capacity of all students to succeed. That is what needs to be transferred to people who are going into education and that’s why the School of Education, with its dynamic leadership, is paving the way and what we can do, as a partner, is bring our skills of culturally responsive pedagogy and also an understanding in Neuroscience that can be combined and integrated to be brought to bear,” stated Cooper.
The center is designed to enhance a student's teaching experience, keeping them interested and attracted to urban schools.
“And if the teacher is not the same race you are or not the same economic level, that’s alright, but that teacher has to have the sensitivity, the dynamic sensitivity, that enables her to understand and appreciate the life of that child,” remarked Cooper.
The center officially was launched in January. Jeff Lindauer, dean of Canisius School of Education and Human Services, said now they're working to be responsive to school partners, helping identify needs in urban schools and address the teacher shortage.
“We really think that we’re going to need teachers and soon, and so we need to kind of get the word out and almost reserve some of the negative publicity that the teaching profession as gotten, so it is important that we get good quality young people to come into this profession,” noted Lindauer.
The college is feeling the effects of the teacher shortage, with fewer students enrolling in the program.
“Our enrollment has gone down significantly, which is not an uncommon issue for schools across the country,” said Lindauer.
WBFO asked if the urban center would serve as a ‘game changer’ for the college’s education department.
“I would like to think at point in the future we are going to see some people take a look at what we’re doing and say ‘you know, I’m interested in that, Canisius has got some things going on along with the National Urban Alliance and I would like to jump on board. I’ll like to make a difference in young people’s lives as well,’” responded Lindauer.
Nancy Wallace is an assistant professor and director of School and Community Partnerships at the college.
“We are always looking for schools who create a sense of community within their walls, because that’s an excellent place to prepare teacher candidates,” stated Wallace.
Wallace said she it is very exciting to launch this urban center for future teachers.
“It is a way of being responsive to our school partners – what they’re asking for. You mentioned a lot about teacher shortages. I’m an advocate for teachers. I think teachers are heroes – I really do. I think that they do really critical important work in our community. They have a need for on-gong professional development to meet the challenges of a demographic that’s changing, that’s constantly changing for them,” explained Wallace.
“But I had no real thoughts about teaching in urban schools until my first semester of my freshman year. I took a class called ‘Teach for Equity and Social Justice’ – and it completely changed my life,” said Dorward.
For student-teacher Dorward, he's convinced an urban school setting is her teaching destiny.
“Even though I am a white woman, who is among very many white woman becoming teachers now, with my compassion and love for their culture, I can be an affective teacher even though I am not of that same race,” Dorward described.
Dorward's biggest disappointment is that she's about to graduate this spring and missed the chance to fully-utilize the new Center for Urban Education.
“I’m a little jealous, but I hope that I can be involved with it in the future,” Dorward replied.