“Wait, Watch and Wonder” the 3 magical words that outline and guide the work in the infant room at Rita Gold Center. It is also one of the first things teachers in the infant room introduce to graduate assistants and student teachers during classroom orientation on the first day of placement. Those three little words and the dialogues we had during Infant-Toddler Practicum class have since then transformed my view of infant-toddler care and education. Eager to bring the wonderful responsive caregiving approach and philosophy to other infant-toddler care settings post-graduation, I began my journey working with infant and toddlers at an Early Head Start program at University Settlement.
Currently, I work as the Assistant Director of Education and Child Development. My primary responsibility is to ensure that all the classrooms are run effectively, while providing high quality responsive care and education services to the children in our program. On the micro level, I am responsible for the day-to-day management of the classrooms, which includes ensuring the program is in compliance with regulating bodies and completing managerial tasks. In addition, I also provide supervision to a team of teaching staff and a coordinator. On the macro level, I collaborate with another Assistant Director and the Senior Program Director to decide on program directions, making policies and procedures to ensure services are delivered timely and appropriately, and creating implementation plans of best practices for the program with fellow staff members.
My experience at TC has widened my horizon about early childhood education, especially in the field of infant-toddler care that is often overlooked or dismissed. It is my goal to continue bringing quality care to at-risk families that will support development in the early years through positive relationships, which becomes the cornerstone of learning later in life.
I am currently a teacher at PS 139 in Flatbush, Brooklyn. The classroom is a self-contained 1st and 2nd grade classroom serving children with speech and language support. Prior to joining PS 139, I was a pre-k teacher at Therapy Learning Center in Brooklyn where I worked with children on the Autism spectrum and children with Down’s Syndrome. It has always been my goal and commitment to support children with special needs, specifically as a graduate from TC’s Early Childhood Dual Certification Program.
During my time at Teachers College, I embraced my identity as a teacher, scholar, educator, and black woman. I was a member of a Preservice Teacher Advisory Board comprised of other preservice teachers of color in both the elementary and early childhood program. Facilitated by Detra Price-Dennis and Haeny Yoon, the advisory group worked to organize opportunities for teachers of color to connect and sustain relationships within the academy and beyond. Our work continues to have an impact and space at Teachers College. This past year, I was on a featured panel of new teachers of color at the Racial Literacies Roundtable, hosted by Yolanda Sealey-Ruiz. As new teachers from different areas of the country, we shared about our experiences as educators serving communities of color. I remain actively involved at Teachers College through formal and informal mentorship and collaboration. I am a new teacher fellow for a year-long mentoring project this upcoming school year funded by the Office of Teacher Education. The project involves my own mentorship by experienced teachers but will also involve participation in an inquiry group with other colleagues.
For the past five years I have been teaching in Washington heights as a bilingual, special education, early childhood teacher. Most recently I completed my first year in the doctoral program at Teachers College within the early childhood department. As a doctoral candidate, my interests include disability studies, inclusive education and trauma informed teaching.
While I was working towards my master’s degree at Teachers College I was part of the Quality Universally Inclusive Early Responsive Education (QUIERE) program. QUIERE was designed to address the critical needs of infants, toddlers, and young children with disabilities and their families, particularly those of immigrant backgrounds. With the support of this program I am able to better understand and support many of the students and families that I serve in my classroom every year. I was also lucky enough to obtain a position as a graduate assistant at The Rita Gold Early Childhood Center. In addition to my experiences as a student teacher, this placement contributed to my understanding of early childhood development. It has been incredibly rewarding to use so much of what I learned in this play-based center in my own teaching today. During my studies, I was also a participant of the Teacher Opportunity Corps (TOC) program. TOC better prepared me to teach in an urban school setting and forge relationships with teachers of color going into similar schools. During the second year of my studies I became a Zankel fellow which gave me first-hand experience co-creating an afterschool program for first grade students of various abilities. Working in collaboration with other talented teachers prepared me to co-teach in an inclusive classroom. Every single experience during the master’s program at TC granted me the opportunity to grow, explore and learn as a student and early teacher.
I am now teaching elementary school (DOE) as a special education teacher. I’ve been assigned ICT 2018-2019 and 2019-2020; and am expected to be teaching 1st grade ICT this upcoming school year. I studied Early Childhood General and Special Education. I particularly enjoyed my coursework on working with families/ students with disabilities, as it taught me about advocacy work and different ways to meet the needs of not only students but their families as well. Out of my experience at TC, I gained a greater understanding of how social justice can be applied to the work that teachers do in the classroom. I also gained a great community/network of lifelong educators and learners. -Ny'Asia McKinstry
I currently am the Kindergarten Special Ed ICT teacher at PS 347: The American Sign Language and English Lower School. I teach predominately CoDAs (Children of Deaf Adults) in a dual language type setting with English and American Sign Language. I studied in the early childhood and early childhood special ed dual cert program. Of all my experiences at TC, perhaps my greatest experience was through my coursework in Integrated Curriculum, and Advanced Practicum. My ability to conduct child centered research has greatly impacted my teaching now, as well as my pedagogical philosophy as a whole. At TC, I learned how to challenge the narrative that children are given by school system. I learned to teach in a way that values who these children are and where they come from, while still making sure they learn to read and write in a way that makes sense to them! I learned to be confident in my abilities as a teacher and how to advocate for what my students need. - Samantha Pitta
*From Left to Right - Samantha Pitta, Ny'Asia McKinstry, and Fahyolah Antoine. All working as Early Childhood teachers.