“Through BEST, I‘m giving back to the community that has made me who I am. I want to make a difference, even if it’s just in one student’s life."
by Valerie Mikell“Through BEST, I‘m giving back to the community that has made me who I am. I want to make a difference, even if it’s just in one student’s life.” — Maria Canella ’12
The BEST of Both Worlds
In these times, during which the future of education is at the forefront of political, social and economic discussion, Maria Canella ’12 is on target to impact those who are most affected by these decisions. Ms. Canella is on the fast track to teach science education through the new Project BEST (Bilingual Educators in Science and Technology) program. The program, funded by President Obama’s Race To The Top initiative, provides a supportive platform for graduate students to enter the teaching profession—with the goal of increasing the number of bilingual minority math and science teachers in the nation’s schools.
The child of a Costa Rican mother and an Italian father, Ms. Canella attended kindergarten in her mother’s native land before coming to the United States and attending local elementary and intermediate schools—eventually graduating from Francis Lewis High School in Queens. By the time Ms. Canella came to Adelphi, she had her feet firmly planted in the sciences. “I was always interested in science, especially in anatomy and physiology. I’ve always had a love for biology in general. I took many science classes in high school and that’s what led me to become a bio major at Adelphi,” Ms. Canella said.
As graduation approached, Ms. Canella wondered how to merge her love for the sciences and her need to give back to the community. “Toward my senior year at Adelphi, with the more advanced courses I completed, I realized that I wanted to take my science degree further and teach,” she said. A campus-wide email about Project BEST caught her attention and she sought out Dr. Tracy Hogan for more information. “Teaching was always one of my interests, but I had no idea how to get started. When Dr. Hogan explained to me how intense and in-depth it would be, I knew that I would leave the program well-prepared,” Ms. Canella said.
Ms. Canella began the program this past July in a cohort, initially taking classes at Adelphi and observing an ESL teacher in Roosevelt High School on Long Island. This fall, with the addition of another cohort member, her Project BEST family was complete. They dove right in, taking courses at night and shadowing their Roosevelt teachers four days a week—supporting instruction in the classroom and completing daily activities. “I got my feet wet right away. I have no teaching experience, but spending the day observing teachers and interacting with students helps to build your confidence, day by day. During this year, it’s comforting to know that we are allowed to make all our mistakes now, so that, when you’re ready for your own classroom, we’ll know what to do,” Ms. Canella said.
Project BEST provides a nurturing environment for Ms. Canella; she considers her Adelphi professors her advisers. Tracy Hogan, Daryl Gordon, Diana Schwinge and Eva Roca help her develop expert teaching methodology, and the knowledge base she will need to address the challenges of teaching in a high needs, bilingual instructional setting and provide opportunities for hands-on experience. Through one of her classes, Ms. Canella has found that teaching the bilingual student involves more innovation and thinking outside the box that she anticipated—and it’s a wonderful discovery. “Creativity is such a large part of the BEST program. One of the goals is to have the ability to modify your lessons to accommodate your bilingual students—sometimes it’s adding pictures to a lesson, or defining words that may prove difficult for a student to understand,” she said.
Although learning how to deliver a lesson is so far the most challenging aspect for her, she said the reward will be feeding her students’ inquisitive nature and seeing her students’ reaction when they “get it.” She is excited to share with her students how science affects the world around them and how they can create a better future for themselves through science.
“I grew up in a high-needs district, but I had a teacher instill in me that I could accomplish anything. Many students in these schools aren’t given the attention they deserve,” Ms. Canella said. “Through BEST, I‘m giving back to the community that has made me who I am. I want to make a difference, even if it’s just in one student’s life. It all adds up if we all instill confidence in our students and inspire them to achieve.”
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