Realizing Her Dream Amid a Fellowship of Kindred Spirits

Scholar Profile: Abby O'Neill fellow Sarah Duer

The O'Neill Fellowship has graduated its first cohort of Fellows—and Sarah Duer is one of them.

Sarah Duer has wanted to be a teacher since accompanying her mother, an elementary school teacher, on errands around their hometown of Edison, New Jersey, and running into her mother’s effusive former students.

In high school, as leader of a Future Teachers of America chapter, Duer helped find elementary school teachers to let her peers come in for a taste of student-teaching. She signed up for a five-year teacher prep program at Occidental College in Los Angeles, but when the program was canceled in her junior year, due to budget cuts, Duer had to change plans on the fly. She decided to apply to some of the nation’s most prestigious education schools and was delighted when TC accepted her—except for the cost.

“I felt I would have to make sacrifices because of my belief in teaching in public school,” Duer says. “It would be a hardship, but I accepted it.”

In the end, she didn’t have to, thanks to TC’s Abby M. O’Neill Fellowship, which addresses multiple needs in teacher education, including cost, the demand for training in key areas of dual certification, and the need for excellent teachers committed to working in underserved communities. Created in 2013 through an $11 million commitment from TC Trustee Emerita Abby M. O’Neill, the O’Neill Fellowship is graduating its first cohort of 11 Fellows—and Sarah Duer is one of them.

“When I applied, I didn’t think I had a chance,” she says. “Now I’m coming out with significantly less debt, which is wonderful.” As she spends the next two years teaching in New York City she will receive guidance from an experienced teacher known as an “induction mentor.” At the same time, she’ll be able to draw on a network of colleagues from the first and second O’Neill cohorts, with whom she shared a number of meetings and events in the last two years, for support and inspiration. “My favorite part has been getting to know the other Fellows and feeding off their energy,” Duer says.

O’Neill Fellows study an area of high-need dual certification. Duer’s was elementary inclusive education and elementary gifted education. “I really don’t like the word ‘gifted,’ we need a new word!” she says. She particularly appreciated the chance to critically examine the concept with Lisa Wright, Adjunct Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Hollingworth Center, whose class “Nature and Needs of Gifted Students” was the first she took at TC.

 “I remember she made me feel important, that my experiences mattered, and that I was a special part of the community,” she says. “And that’s what every teacher wants his or her students to feel.”

During her time at TC, Duer has worked and student-taught at a range of schools and with a wide range of children, from pre-schoolers at the TC’s Hollingworth Center to kindergarteners at the Teachers College Community School, to third graders at Central Park East 2, to fifth graders at P.S. 87 William T. Sherman.

For her first position as a full-fledged teacher, Duer hopes to join one of several new public schools being developed in Astoria, Queens, the neighborhood where she lives.

“The opportunity to be a founding member of a brand-new school would be magical,” Duer says. “You’re creating a vision with a team of teachers who—just like the Abby O’Neill Fellows—are willing to take on a daunting challenge.” —Siddhartha Mitter 

(Published 5/5/2015)

 

Published Wednesday, May. 6, 2015

Realizing Her Dream Amid a Fellowship of Kindred Spirits

The O'Neill Fellowship has graduated its first cohort of Fellows—and Sarah Duer is one of them.

Sarah Duer has wanted to be a teacher since accompanying her mother, an elementary school teacher, on errands around their hometown of Edison, New Jersey, and running into her mother’s effusive former students.

In high school, as leader of a Future Teachers of America chapter, Duer helped find elementary school teachers to let her peers come in for a taste of student-teaching. She signed up for a five-year teacher prep program at Occidental College in Los Angeles, but when the program was canceled in her junior year, due to budget cuts, Duer had to change plans on the fly. She decided to apply to some of the nation’s most prestigious education schools and was delighted when TC accepted her—except for the cost.

“I felt I would have to make sacrifices because of my belief in teaching in public school,” Duer says. “It would be a hardship, but I accepted it.”

In the end, she didn’t have to, thanks to TC’s Abby M. O’Neill Fellowship, which addresses multiple needs in teacher education, including cost, the demand for training in key areas of dual certification, and the need for excellent teachers committed to working in underserved communities. Created in 2013 through an $11 million commitment from TC Trustee Emerita Abby M. O’Neill, the O’Neill Fellowship is graduating its first cohort of 11 Fellows—and Sarah Duer is one of them.

“When I applied, I didn’t think I had a chance,” she says. “Now I’m coming out with significantly less debt, which is wonderful.” As she spends the next two years teaching in New York City she will receive guidance from an experienced teacher known as an “induction mentor.” At the same time, she’ll be able to draw on a network of colleagues from the first and second O’Neill cohorts, with whom she shared a number of meetings and events in the last two years, for support and inspiration. “My favorite part has been getting to know the other Fellows and feeding off their energy,” Duer says.

O’Neill Fellows study an area of high-need dual certification. Duer’s was elementary inclusive education and elementary gifted education. “I really don’t like the word ‘gifted,’ we need a new word!” she says. She particularly appreciated the chance to critically examine the concept with Lisa Wright, Adjunct Associate Professor of Education and Director of the Hollingworth Center, whose class “Nature and Needs of Gifted Students” was the first she took at TC.

 “I remember she made me feel important, that my experiences mattered, and that I was a special part of the community,” she says. “And that’s what every teacher wants his or her students to feel.”

During her time at TC, Duer has worked and student-taught at a range of schools and with a wide range of children, from pre-schoolers at the TC’s Hollingworth Center to kindergarteners at the Teachers College Community School, to third graders at Central Park East 2, to fifth graders at P.S. 87 William T. Sherman.

For her first position as a full-fledged teacher, Duer hopes to join one of several new public schools being developed in Astoria, Queens, the neighborhood where she lives.

“The opportunity to be a founding member of a brand-new school would be magical,” Duer says. “You’re creating a vision with a team of teachers who—just like the Abby O’Neill Fellows—are willing to take on a daunting challenge.” —Siddhartha Mitter 

(Published 5/5/2015)

 

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