The fifth class of 23 in the Teacher Residency Program, a partnership with Buffalo Public Schools, began in the summer of 2023 with an institute held on UB's South Campus. Each student is working with a mentor teacher at their assigned school. They will co-teach this year while taking courses that connect research and theory to teaching. Once they finish in Aug. 2024, residents will be certified and eligible to work as full-time teachers in Buffalo schools. Here, this year's cohort members explain what drew them to the program.
Myra Ahmed Worked as a substitute teacher in the Buffalo Public Schools. She holds a bachelor’s degree in individualized studies with the programmatic theme of community revitalization. Ahmed was born and raised in Buffalo, and loves to work with arts and crafts. “One specific teacher inspired and motivated me to pursue UBTR. This program would allow me to be able to continue modeling and expressing the respect, peace of mind and quality education that every student deserves.”
Grace Bashizi is originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and came to the U.S. in 2008. Bashizi graduated from Buffalo State University with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She is fluent in Swahili, Mashi, Luganda, French and English. “I was motivated to become a teacher in Buffalo because I worked as an academic coach in the Buffalo Public Schools. I saw a need for multilingual teachers in the Buffalo Public Schools.”
Esther Blakely received an associate degree in general studies from Erie County Community College and a bachelor’s degree in business management and economics from Empire State University Blakely has worked for more than 10 years as a program coordinator for Playworks, which is supported by the Buffalo Board of Education. “I was interested in the UBTR program because it seemed like the timing was finally right to pursue a career as an educator. I want to become a teacher because I want to be an active participant in the change that I want to see within the communities of the global majority.”
Tanya Blakeley-Clark earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in history from Eastern Washington University. During her time there, her thesis, “The Martyrdom of Anne Askew: A Case Study in the Suppression of Feminine Spirituality in Early Modern England,” was awarded the 2016 Raymond G. Shultz prize for best departmental thesis. In addition to pursuing her advanced certificate, her dissertation is underway with the UB history department. “As someone who comes from a low-income, first-generation family, I have personally seen the ways that a good education can change lives. I believe that teaching in an urban school is a great way to pay it forward and put my education and skills to use.”
Mary Kay Caulfield attended Buffalo State University and earned her bachelor’s degree in humanities. As a longtime champion Irish dancer, Caulfield became a certified Irish dance teacher and instructed children ages 3 and up. After subbing in the Buffalo Public Schools, Caulfield decided to apply to the UBTR program. “I think that every child deserves a chance and just needs to be given an opportunity to shine! I will be a powerful advocate for my students.”
Kara Cottrell obtained a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and a master’s in international business from Daemen University. After a long career in human resources, Cottrell decided it was time for a change. “I have always been interested in teaching, so I was thrilled to be accepted into the UBTR program. I want to become a teacher to inspire young children, and I am motivated to teach in Buffalo to have an impact on my community.”
Angel Davis received an associate degree in biblical studies and a bachelor’s degree in business management from D’Youville University, and a master’s degree in organizational leadership from Medaille University. Davis originally worked as an insurance claims adjuster for 15 years, and decided to change careers and enter the field of education. “I am very passionate about justice, right and wrong, and feel the need to advocate for those who are underserved.”
Alexa Dean earned her bachelor's degree in geology from UB. As an undergraduate, Dean worked as a barista at Starbucks—and she now plans to transfer the skills she obtained in creating lesson plans and individual learning plans while training new baristas to education youth in the classroom. “I was interested in the UBTR Program because of the opportunity to work in the Buffalo Public Schools. I am drawn to Buffalo Public Schools because of the diversity in their schools and the ability to immerse myself in many different cultures. I want to become a teacher because I want to make a difference in students’ lives and be a positive role model.”
Jada Fisher studied at the UB where she obtained a degree in psychology in 2020. While obtaining that degree, she started working at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Buffalo’s Early Childhood Center, where she discovered her passion for working with children. “Going into the Buffalo Public School district, where diversity enrollment is so high, I am able to educate, love and foster a safe environment for students of all cultural backgrounds.”
Lauren Fogle graduated from Niagara University with a bachelor’s degree in biology. She found a love of teaching while working as a substitute teacher for the Hamburg Central School District. “When choosing to go back to school, I spoke to many of my friends who are teachers and a couple work for the Buffalo Public Schools and love it. When I investigated different programs and spoke to UB, it seemed like the perfect fit.”
Ashtyn Gregoire is a UB graduate after beginning his educational journey at Niagara County Community College. He earned his bachelor’s degree in business with a minor in education. “I was interested in UBTR because I loved my time in undergrad at UB and wanted to stay here for grad school. I decided on teaching after seeing the impact my great-grandma was able to have on her students just as an aide, and always wanted to be able to have that same impact.”
Abby Griffith is an Alfred University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in English. She also attended the University of Tennessee, where she received a master’s degree in English. Her most recent positions include serving as the executive director of Cornell Cooperative Extension, Wyoming County, and as lead executive director for the CCE Western Shared Business Network. “I can think of no better program to hone my skills as an educator than one that provides participants with such rigorous, hands-on learning opportunities. I could not be more excited to join the community of passionate individuals who make up the residency program.”
Jaime Herbeck received an undergraduate degree in organizational communication, learning and design with a minor in art history and still photography from Ithaca College. Herbeck has had the pleasure of teaching English as a new language to a group of incredible adults through the Ken-Ton Adult and Community Education program since moving to Buffalo. “What I hope for in education is meaningful, community-embedded project-based learning that gives students the spark, curiosity and courage to think for themselves, ignite tangible, positive change in the places they call home and continually question the world around them.”
Cierra Hernandez attended the UB and majored in health and human services. Hernandez has been working as a social-emotional coordinator with BestSelf to support the Buffalo Public Schools. “Being a community partner in Buffalo for the past four years allowed me to see how I can support students and coach teachers to be trauma-informed, teach with a social-emotional lens and include more restorative justice practices in their school day. Being able to support the diversity and diverse learners that Buffalo Public Schools has to offer is something that I want to do.”
Meg Devine Maxwell is a graduate of College of the Holy Cross and earned a bachelor’s degree in English. Maxwell then went on to work in publishing, arts marketing and higher education communications for 20-plus years. “I am equally excited by UBTR’s commitment to increasing educational opportunities for all students and the opportunity to learn experientially in a classroom from/with an experienced mentor teacher.”
Jesse Meeder earned his BA in English language and literature from Gordon College. An avid vegetable farmer, Meeder has held positions with various nonprofits that focus on educating youth about healthy foods. “I believe in the importance of the public educational system, and wanted to receive training, experience and eventually professional work opportunities in an urban school system such as Buffalo’s.”
Victor Enrique Morales earned a bachelor’s degree from SUNY Fredonia with a dual major in English and political science. Morales has previously worked as a domestic violence advocate and was a supported housing specialist before deciding to enter education. “I believe building community is vital and look forward to being a part of a school community. When I contemplated if I wanted to teach, I always knew I would be teaching in Buffalo if I did.”
Areej Mullick studied biological science for her undergraduate degree at UB. Mullick is a cat lover and would like to become a foster cat mom in the future. “I became interested in teaching due to my organic chemistry professor. I am a Buffalo Public Schools student myself, and that, paired with the effect my professor had on me, led to this program.”
Loran Peterson is a graduate of SUNY Fredonia, where he earned a BA and MA in English. Peterson is a world traveler and lived in the Middle East for 14 years, where he worked as an editor for Open-Source Enterprises and Now Lebanon. “UBTR offered a golden opportunity for me to channel my experiences abroad into Buffalo Public Schools classrooms. I’m a big fan of self-advocacy among the underserved and came back to Western New York to see if I could find a way to engage that in powerful, meaningful ways.”
Tierra Purdue received a bachelor’s degree in applied mathematics, with a concentration in statistical modeling, from Buffalo State University. Purdue was born and raised in Buffalo and is a proud product of the Buffalo Public Schools and a Say Yes Scholar alumna. “I think it is so important to see teachers who look like you, especially in a STEM subject, and teachers who have had a similar experience. By knowing I can make a change for the better, it motivates me.”
Melissa Ray-Schaefer is a UB alum with a BA in communication and an MS in applied public affairs. Ray-Schaefer was the director of the community center for a youth and family counseling agency in Illinois for ten years before taking a break to raise four children. She has been working as a teacher’s aide in Buffalo and found her calling as a teacher. “A family friend highly recommended the UBTR program. His son is a graduate and happily teaching in the Buffalo Public Schools.”
Tasha Vega completed her associate degree in liberal arts and science at Trocaire College. She also completed her bachelor’s degree in educational studies at Empire State University. Vega has more than 20 years of experience working in education. “Since I was in high school, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. When I received an email regarding the UBTR, I immediately began the steps required to apply.”
Lauren White graduated in 2022 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and marketing from SUNY Brockport. While at Brockport, White was the vice president of The Organization for Students of African Descent, where she organized community events and community service projects for the student body. “I was interested in UBTR because I love how the program works toward the improvement of Buffalo Public Schools. My passion for working with students in my community and being their representative motivates me to teach in a diverse school district like Buffalo Public Schools.”
GSE faculty recently secured two substantial grants aimed at revolutionizing teacher education and diversifying the teaching profession. These grants, totaling more than $4.75 million, will support initiatives aimed at addressing teacher shortages, improving teacher quality and promoting diversity in the education sector.
The first project, entitled “UB Teacher Residency MBK TOC II,” has been funded with $564,220 by the New York State Education Department’s My Brother’s Keeper Teacher Opportunity Corps II initiative. Under the leadership of Principal Investigator Amanda Winkelsas, GSE clinical assistant professor and director of the UB Teacher Residency Program, alongside Co-PIs Julie Gorlewski, GSE professor and senior associate dean of academic affairs and teacher education; and Elisabeth Etopio, GSE clinical associate professor and assistant dean for teacher education, this project aims to enhance teacher recruitment and preparation. The project seeks to positively impact student learning by developing teacher residents who cultivate an inclusive, equitable classroom climate where students’ social-emotional and academic needs are met. Over five years, it will provide partial tuition scholarships, certification exam support and textbook assistance to 20 My Brother’s Keeper Teacher Opportunity Corps II Scholars annually, focusing on underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students pursuing certification through the UBTR Program.
The second project, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Teacher Quality Partnership Program with $4,190,612, will further expand the UBTR Program. Led by Winkelsas as PI and a team of Co-PIs, including Gorlewski and Etopio, as well as GSE Dean Suzanne Rosenblith; Erin Kearney, GSE associate professor and chair of the Department of Learning and Instruction; Corrie Stone-Johnson, GSE professor of educational leadership and policy; and Kamontá Heidelburg, assistant professor of school psychology at The Ohio State University’s College of Education and Human Ecology, this initiative will broaden UB’s successful 16-month teacher residency program to schools and districts beyond Buffalo. It will also introduce a leadership strand to prepare building leaders who understand the unique needs of novice teachers, especially those from underrepresented backgrounds.
The two grants are in addition to two existing grants supporting the UBTR program: a U.S. Department of Education Supporting Effective Educator Development (SEED) grant awarded in 2022 ($3.5 million), and a National Science Foundation Noyce Program grant ($1.1 million) awarded in 2021.