Introducing Teach-In: Notes on Teaching and Learning from the CUNY Professional Development Team

The students file into the room.  There is Shawnelle with her hopeful smile; Gabriela, a young, bashful Latina who sits in the back, alert but silent; Luz the plump, motherly one who always carries a backpack full of books; Nelson, an African American in his late twenties who speaks in a soft voice and is always very exact. And there are countless others: mothers, fathers, daughters and sons from places as far away as Bangladesh, and Ghana, and as close as 116th Street. Our students come to us hoping to make better lives for themselves, and it is our job to help them do it, in six or nine or twelve hours a week, with so much to learn.

We are staff developers at the CUNY Adult Literacy/HSE/ESL Program.  We have all been classroom teachers for many years, and we know what it’s like to start each semester hoping the best for the students we teach, but daunted by the task.  We have started this blog because we want to help teachers, and through them, students.  Who are we?

Eric Appleton started in adult literacy as a volunteer tutor in 1999 at the Fortune Society, an organization that supports formerly incarcerated people. He came to CUNY as a math and science professional developer in 2013. Eric is a founding member of the NYC Community of Adult Math Instructors (CAMI).

Ellen Baxt has worked in CUNY’s ESL, literacy and college access programs for 13 years, as a teacher, student advisor, program administrator and professional developer. She developed the intensive advisement component of the CUNY Start program, and is the lead designer of The CUNY CareerKit project.

Kate Brandt has taught ABE and HSE since 1990, and currently works to provide resources and workshops for reading and writing teachers throughout New York City and State. She was the lead author of the CUNY HSE Social Studies Curriculum Framework.

Moira Taylor has 25 years of experience in ESL, primarily in New York City. After earning her MA in TESOL at the School for International Training, she taught at the Riverside Language Program. For the last 12 years, she has worked as the ESL Professional Development Coordinator for the PD team.

Mark Trushkowsky’s teaching career began in 2001 at the Adult Learning Center at LaGuardia Community College, where he taught ABE in all subjects and HSE math. Mark has worked as the Mathematics Professional Development Coordinator since 2009. He is a founding member of the NYC Community of Adult Math Instructors (CAMI) and was the lead author of the CUNY HSE Math Curriculum Framework.

Each week, we will publish a post with new resources for teachers—posts on teaching reading and writing in the BE/HSE classroom; social studies; science; math; speaking, listening, reading and writing for ESOL students.  Our hope is that teachers will use these resources to enhance their teaching and stay informed about changes in the field. This is a pivotal moment in the adult literacy world, with new standardized tests coming for our students, and a whole new paradigm of teaching confronting us, with the advent of career pathways in adult education. In this blog, we will highlight new teaching tricks, resources, and approaches intended to help teachers of adult students face those challenges. We want to give you the tools you need to do your work effectively, so that the students who file into your classrooms with their hopes of going to college or finding meaningful work have a better chance.