“A teacher affects eternity; he [she]can never tell where his [her] influence stops.”
We should not need a week to talk about the honor and privilege of being a teacher – we should not need a week to remind our community to “thank-a-teacher”, but given the climate in education, I think we do. This week is Teacher Appreciation Week. I have spent years in the education field working with teachers and professors who dedicate their lives to children, youth and their families – wouldn’t it be wonderful if the appreciation for teachers was evident in the talking points we hear at our dinner tables, our jobs, in the media, and in political circles every week. After all, most of us are where we are because of the influence and great wisdom of a teacher along the way!
May 4th-8th is a time, celebrated once a year, where we can show teachers our appreciation for their commitment to children and youth. Since 1984, the National PTA has been honoring women and men who dedicate their careers and themselves to educating children and youth. This week, I propose that we all join their efforts.
Education is complicated – no doubt. Education is challenging – for sure. Education is changing – good thing. But education, led by remarkable teachers, is the path to success ….in our community, in our family, in our career, and in our world. We may never know the impact of a teacher on our lives and the lives of our children, but we do know the professional knowledge and skill they bring into our classrooms. We do know the dedication they have to ALL children – and their belief that all children can learn and succeed. We do know their commitment to on-going professional learning and at Niagara, we know their commitment to service, especially for those most in need. We count on our teachers every day – no matter what.
So join me in celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week and thank your teachers and your professors. Rally around the teaching profession as we need the very best teachers now and in the future. Think about teaching as it is perhaps the most rewarding and influential of all – and it comes in all types of positions from the classroom, to the university, to the corporate training office and beyond.
National School Counselor’s Week was celebrated in February. As I reflect upon the events which mark this profession, I pause to think about the incredibly meaningful role that school counselors play in the lives of many young people across our country.
According to the American Counseling Association, “Counseling is a professional relationship that empowers diverse individuals, families and groups to accomplish mental health, wellness, education and career goals.” Students today are dealing with more challenges than ever before, thus the school counselors work becomes even more important. A school counselor’s role is not simply to give advice or schedule classes; it is to support students in making responsible and empowering decisions at significant stages in their lives. School counselors work with students, their families, faculty, staff, and school leaders to ensure personal and academic success for their students. They play a lead role in advocacy, but also in building confidence and expectation for success in obtaining goals for college, for a successful career, for meaningful employment. In our own lives, we remember school counselors who gave us the “can do” attitude and path to success …. who encouraged us to reach high and make it happen.
Recently, the need for school counselors in elementary schools has been emphasized across New York State; laying the foundation for the work counselors do in middle and high schools. According to the US Department of Labor, school counseling jobs are expected to increase by 7% in New York State, and 12% nationally. The Department of Labor also establishes that, on average, counselors in New York have a higher salary than counselors in most other states. Given the increasing need for highly trained and skillful counselors in our K-12 schools, it is important that our newest counselors are well prepared for their role in transforming the lives of children and youth and in working in partnership with teachers and families to enhance success. It is imperative that new counselors are vested in the future needs of the workforce as 21st century careers and the respective areas of study have changed and will continue to evolve.
I am pleased that our faculty and school counseling students took time to celebrate National School Counseling week and to reflect on their commitment to serving all students, their role in the schools and partnerships in the community, and their knowledge of both theory and application to real world expectations for college and career readiness. The impact which school counselors graduating from Niagara University can make in the lives of young people knows no bounds.
Yes, 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.
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.
The 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.
Extraordinary Leaders, Teachers and Counselors
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
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.
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.
Through our Vincentian mission, we ask …
What must be done? and How must it be done?
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.
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.
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?