Snow in November

snowYes, in the midst of the chaos of the November snow storm,  this Dean went outside to make snow angels!  Periodically, we are reminded that our very best plans and task lists will unexpectedly change and that there are some things in life over which we have very little,  if any,  control.  Six to seven feet of snow on a Tuesday will do that to a person.   Our ability to navigate unforeseen circumstances,  chaos,  and change is an important attribute – whether these are small circumstances or those which seem overwhelming at the time.

 

As the semester begins to wind down and the anticipation of the holiday begins,  take time to stop for a moment – to make snow angels – to navigate the moments over which we have no control and think about the things in life which are most important of all.  Perhaps the snow storm in November was this reminder for many of us.

Celebrating Language Learning and Academics

As we think about understanding and respecting others,  we know that we must understand and respect ourselves first.  Our individual experiences, informed by language and cultural heritage, shape our development and learning, our academic and social interactions, our goals and interests, and our self-esteem and confidence. Thus, as our classrooms become more culturally and linguistically diverse, educators must recognize language and culture as core strengths for learning and for the development of self-awareness and self-esteem in students. Education today requires much more than providing students with academic preparation. The school experience should be a perpetually enriching process of ongoing growth, personally and intellectually, taking into consideration the context of our society where diversity, progress, and change are fundamental.

InternationalSchool45BuffaloNYThe International School #45, in the Buffalo Public School District, is dedicated to implementing these practices as part of its faculty and administrator’s commitment to helping each student reach his or her potential.   Niagara University’s College of Education was honored to recognize the Buffalo Public School’s International School at its Annual Professional Recognition Dinner.

The 780 students at the International School #45 represent over 70 countries and 30 languages.  The school’s mission supports a global, multicultural perspective that fosters understanding and acceptance of diversity, high academic achievement and social responsibility. The dedicated leaders, teachers, and staff provide explicit, differentiated instruction, using research-based programs that align with the district’s academic plan.

The College of Education commended School #45 on its most recent designation as a “School in Good Standing” by the New York State Education Department.  As the Dean of the College of Education, I am honored that we are partners with a school doing meaningful work in this way. We have the unique opportunity to work within the school building itself to prepare teachers in addressing the complex needs of English language learning students.  The university-school-community partnership has been an integral component in this turnaround and the enhanced achievement of the students in School #45 – this type of impact on student learning is the most important work of a university’s school of education.

Niagara University’s College of Education is proud to applaud the commitment of the International School #45 in serving all students and bringing forth a global understanding while raising academic achievement and college and career readiness for all.

Recognizing the Excellence and Promise in our Communities

Extraordinary Leaders, Teachers and Counselors

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We often speak of education, human services and transformative programs and as systems initiatives – knowing that the creation of sustainable change is complex and interdependent.

However, just as a small pebble creates a ripple in the river, so can be the impact of just one single educator, counselor or community leader.  The powerful impact individual teachers and leaders have on young people within their communities is immeasurable. Given our focus on success for all students (beginning with young children and extending across the educational continuum),  the outstanding work of our superintendents, teachers, counselors, and community leaders is what truly makes the difference … and this is most often not recognized amidst the crises, controversies, and challenges we face in education and human services.

It is because of the leadership and outstanding commitment of extraordinary individuals that we are able to meet the needs of all children, inspire the best results from young people, and address the multitude of issues that affect us during our lifetime.  Education requires the commitment of many individuals…as we build systems one person at a time … as we transform our communities one child at a time.

This past week, the College of Education hosted its 33rd annual professional recognition dinner wherein educational leaders, teachers, mental health counselors, and community leaders from both Ontario and Western New York were recognized for their outstanding contributions.  It was with great pride that the faculty and administration at Niagara University paused to recognize the truly amazing commitment of educators and professionals in our communities who bring their knowledge, skills, excellence and hope to children and families every single day. We took time to celebrate the partnerships we have with these outstanding honorees and to thank them for their dedication and commitment.

A record crowd joined us for the celebration of excellence – over 230 attendees joined us to applaud the honorees for their great contributions and untold stories of remarkable inspiration and success. It was my privilege to embrace this unique moment to thank those who work so hard on our behalf, to recognize the truly outstanding people in our community, and to celebrate the hope and commitment to change that was so evident in their comments throughout the evening.

Click here for information about the honorees

It is from our Experience that Possibilities and Responsibilities Emerge

photo (2)Over the last few months, as I have traveled to witness the persistence of one family in the hope for children in Haiti, to study St. Vincent de Paul in France, and to embrace educational partnerships in Vietnam, I have experienced the lasting imprint of one mission – the charism of the Vincentians in their commitment to transformative service and in their far-reaching influence.

This Vincentian heritage inspires a call to action to develop sustainable strategies to address core issues of poverty… a footprint that is uniquely represented through the three Vincentian Universities in the United States – Niagara, St.  John’s, and DePaul. The cycle of scarcity and poverty endured by so many people throughout the world is at the heart of the work we do as Vincentians. The graduates of Niagara University participate in this shared experience through their studies, their community engagement in service, and their research – experiences which will shape their contributions and leadership throughout their lives and careers. Experiences which will become the distinguishing difference in their life’s journey and the opportunities the future holds for them.

photo (3)From these experiences, challenges and responsibilities will emerge as well.  No one has said that this commitment to serving those most in need would be easy.  They have said it must be done; we must regard aid to the poorest and most vulnerable in our world as a fundamental duty.  We will bring our experiences to the question of how it must be done. Our mission calls on us to strive for innovation and excellence in the work we do as advocates for those in need and to support the development of programs and strategies that will make a difference in local communities and the larger world. Let’s, therefore, extend our experiences – domestic and global – in a strategic way so that actions emerge and we develop the persistence to stay the course and truly make a difference in our world.

Systems Change

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Through our Vincentian mission,  we ask …

 What must be done? and  How must it be done?

photo (5)Our journey in France allowed us to walk through cities where these questions began to unfold in the life of St. Vincent de Paul.   We gathered in Folleville realizing that we would not have our community of Vincentians had it not been for the history of all that transpired in that town – the question of “what must be done”  was asked here.

photo (4)We walked the path in Chatillon-sur-Chalaronne where the townspeople came to assist a neighbor in need – with so much food,  St. Vincent knew that we needed to organize the great charity of people – “how must it be done”  was asked here,  providing a clear example of systems change.

As leaders,  we must think about the effectiveness of our ‘best efforts’ if not organized and sustainable.  Our greatest challenges in serving those most in need require this systems thinking  – a purposefully planned and organized use of the goodness of people,  the professionalism and knowledge of the related disciplines,  and the effective use of resources.    The transformation that is needed to address issues of poverty today requires nothing less.

photo (3)photo (2)Our journey continues;  however,  I am struck by the relevance of these two questions (what must be done and how should it be done) in our leadership and in the issues facing our schools,  families,  and communities.   My question becomes  … how are we answering  them?

Our Vincentian Heritage

As a Vincentian university, our mission inspires our studies, our service, our research, and our professional commitment to serving those most in need. We are joined in this mission by the other Vincentian Universities – DePaul University in Chicago and St. John’s University in New York City.

France BuildingWhat a privilege, therefore, to be asked to participate in the Vincentian Mission Institute to study St. Vincent de Paul and St. Louise de Marillac. This provides is with an opportunity to think about the importance of the Vincentian mission as we prepare leaders across all disciplines of study.

We are now in France following the footsteps of St. Vincent. We initiated our trip in his birthplace in Dax (the Berceau) and will make our way to Paris. I am interested in the transformational role of St. Vincent as he began his life as an ambitious and successful man, bringing what seems to me to be a commitment to systems thinking and sustainability to his work with the poor.   In the professions of education and human services (among others), we are challenged by the need to influence systems that will sustain reforms and change the course of opportunity for those who are under-served.


France FoodSo as I enjoy the pastries during this journey through France. I will reflect on the contemporary application of our mission given the pressing issues we face today.

Salaries for Educators

I listen, with great interest, to the ongoing discussion about salaries for teachers and educational administrators (the CEOs of school systems). Often the bottom line in this discussion is this: Are educators paid too much?

In my experience, I have learned that teachers take on the awesome responsibility of facilitating the cognitive, psychological and psychosocial development of their students. These teachers continually strive to shape our world’s rapidly changing workforce by fostering crucial literacy and communication skills in our children, and by inspiring students to a higher level understanding of math, science and technology (to name a few). The support they provide to their students translates into success and innovation for engineers, medical doctors, scientists, and CEOs (again, to name just a few), who will lead us into the future.

Why, then, are we not talking about salaries that will entice our greatest young people to select teaching as their profession?

We know that the average salaries being discussed by the media are heavily weighted by those who are most tenured. It is the beginning salary, however, which drives young people into the profession as they consider how their skills and talents will translate into a career – a career which promotes fiscal independence or even one which will provide confidence in the ability to support a family within the economic conditions of this generation (not to mention paying student loans).

As a professional woman, I have been interested in seeing the entry level salary for teaching increase over the years, as I would like our most talented students to choose this exceptionally significant profession. The competition to choose other more lucrative careers is fierce…young women and men alike (both of whom are needed in our schools) have many professional opportunities and they should indeed consider the financial foundation and growth that is needed for a secure future. I would like to see teaching on that short list!

So we may ask … is the salary of a teacher too high?

I ask . . . what is the value of the professional who shapes the academic and personal development of our children and adolescents, influences our community through the education of its citizens, and imparts cutting-edge, 21st century knowledge and skills that are essential to the future workforce of our country?