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Hofstra and Farmingdale School District Partner on Pre-K

Hofstra University’s Early Childhood Education (ECE) Program has taken the mentoring experience a step further by partnering with the local Farmingdale School District and managing the teaching aspects of its Universal Pre-K (UPK) program. This collaboration, entering its eighth year, gives newly certificated Hofstra education graduates a chance to complete their first year of teaching with consistent professional support. Working with Ellen Krammer, Farmingdale’s UPK grant coordinator, Hofstra’s ECE Program provides program staff, supervision, and curriculum. Bonnie Epstein, early childhood specialist at Hofstra, with the help of her mentoring staff, plans with these new teachers to create a dynamic curriculum, while overseeing the choice of materials, schedule, management and assessment of the children as well as some of the home/school/community connections.

Pre-K Partnership

During 2013-2014, the program serviced 144 pre-kindergarten children and employed eight certificated teachers. Every year graduating ECE students are invited to apply for this one-year mentored position. Each morning and afternoon class is co-taught by two partnered, certificated teachers. Additionally, 40 or more current students per year are placed in these classrooms to complete their pre-service clinical requirements in a setting that is crafted to reflect best practice as it has been learned in their teacher education program. Hofstra students not yet graduating are eligible to apply for substitute teacher positions.

The curriculum, which conforms to the New York State Pre-K Foundation to the Common Core, is based on Dr. Doris Fromberg’s “Dynamic Themes” approach to learning, which guides teachers in creating opportunities for children to become independent, caring, and critical thinkers, developing skills leading to academic progress and meaningful citizenship. Dr. Fromberg, professor emeritus in Hofstra’s Department of Teaching, Literacy & Leadership, designed Hofstra’s Early Childhood program and directed it for many years until her recent retirement. She serves on the New York State Governor’s Early Childhood Advisory Council as well as editorial boards of professional journals.

ECE graduates are observed regularly – at least once every two weeks. Mentoring provided by Hofstra faculty and veterans of the program takes place on site and as part of in-service days and online discussion groups. Each year, two to four of the pre-K teachers are invited back for a second year to aid in the mentoring process of the new teachers.

The Hofstra/Farmingdale partnership has proved to be a successful model of collaboration between a school district and a university. Teachers hired for this program interface with both university and district personnel. Since classrooms are housed in the public schools, these new teachers have opportunities to work within the framework of the public school system and to negotiate collaborative relationships while concretizing and expanding their teaching repertoire of skills and reflective abilities within the support of a closely mentored relationship.