New graduate teaching program funded by grant

Oswego State received a $1.73 million grant to implement a trial of a new teaching program, allowing graduate students to get firsthand experience in the classroom at high-need middle and high schools.

The Oswego Residency Initiative for Teacher Excellence (O-RITE) takes graduate students and offers them teacher preparation in their discipline through a three-year graduate program, said project director Barbara Garii, associate dean and associate professor for the School of Education.

O-RITE takes the 180-day student teaching requirement and has the graduate student teach in high-need schools in Oswego County, Syracuse and/or New York City, according to a Faculty Assembly document.

“The schools involved in the program have large populations of students that are not making adequate progress when it comes to things like standardized testing,” Garii said.

Garii explained that student teachers that come to these high-need schools are a huge help. They are able to take students with many challenges and give them one-on-one help while the teacher educates the larger portion of the class.

“These high-need schools that we are working with need extra support and to have another trained individual in the classroom is extremely beneficial,” Garii said. “These Oswego students are also learning so much by being able to use what they’ve learned through their training in an actual classroom setting.”

Nina Vetrano, an Italian teacher at Suffern Middle School in Suffern, N.Y., believes that any opportunity a student teacher has in the classroom, in terms of planning lessons and being able to reflect on their experience with students, are crucial aspects to becoming a good teacher.

“Student teaching gives perspectives teachers experience in the classroom,” Vetrano said. “Teaching is not all about theory, you need to be able to interact with your students.”

Vetrano believes that this grant given to Oswego State is well deserved.

“The sooner we can get these students in the classroom and engaging with their students, the better and more beneficial it will be for the future teacher,” she said.

Since O-RITE is a residency program designed for 33 graduate students, they will live near their placements and complete the majority of coursework online.

Upon completion, students will receive a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) for students with disabilities with concentrations in various mathematics, sciences and linguistics. Graduates will be trained and recommended to work with special needs students. The students will also sign an agreement that states they will work in a high need school for four years after receiving their degree.

Because of this new program, Oswego State’s School of Education has been getting a lot of recognition.

“People are looking at SUNY Oswego now,” Garii said. “Other organizations are asking us about this program because it is the wave of the future.”

Garii taught algebra to undergraduates for a number of years before taking her position as associate dean and associate professor for the School of Education at Oswego State.

“I absolutely loved teaching,” Garii said. “It’s an opportunity to empower students and get them to take control of their future.”