Education Students Named to “30 Under 30” List

Photo by Patrick Verel

Photo by Patrick Verel

Two Fordham Graduate School of Education (GSE) students have been honored by the International Literacy Association (ILA) for their efforts to advance literacy for all.
Alex Corbitt, 26, FCRH ‘12, GSE ‘13, and John Maldonado, 25, FCRH ’13, a doctoral student, were named to the ILA’s second annual “30 Under 30” list, an honor bestowed to teachers, authors, volunteers, researchers, social entrepreneurs, and leaders from 12 countries.

Maldonado, a Rego Park, Queens native who graduated with a double major in psychology and English, became a NYC teaching fellow and taught special education at P368K Star Academy in Brooklyn. He is working towards a doctorate in contemporary learning and interdisciplinary research while teaching English at his alma mater, Archbishop Molloy High School in Queens.

He said being named to the list is a validation of what he called the “ugly hours” that all teachers put in—time when they put in extra hours at home, trying to figure out how to best convey information to their students and how to attend to their additional needs.

“As educators, we don’t often get the credit we deserve,” said Maldonado, who is interested in equity and culture, and the roles they play in education. He noted that, beyond his teaching he worked to increase his students’ technological literacy, “in order to give them more career and life opportunities.”

“To be recognized for that work is really validating,” he said. “I’m lucky to be the recipient. But a lot of teachers are doing the same thing.”

Read the full post at Fordham News.


“Inquiring minds want to learn: Empowering his students is the goal for Bronx literacy teacher

For the October issue of New York Teacher, Linda Ocasio focused on GSE alum Alex Corbitt, who was named to the International Literacy Association’s “30 Under 30” List. In the past two years, three GSE students or alumni have made the ILA 30 Under 30. Corbitt joins CLAIR student John Maldonado in this year’s list. Last year, alum Madison Payton was named. Read the full article at the UFT website.

image via UFT and Miller Photography

Arizona is geographically — and culturally — far from New York City. But when the 8th-graders in Alex Corbitt’s Teen Activism class watch a documentary called “Precious Knowledge,” about Tucson HS students fighting for the right to study their Mexican heritage, it resonates deeply. Many of Corbitt’s students at the Bronx School of Science Inquiry and Investigation/MS 331 in Morris Heights are from the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico or Ecuador, and they have plenty to say on the topic.

“We can learn about both American and Latino history, past and present,” says Destiny.

Pedro is bothered by an Arizona legislator in the film who calls the Latino studies program seditious and anti-American. “He said it’s anti-American, but isn’t it more American to fight for what you believe in?” Pedro asks.

It’s a good question. And for Corbitt, it’s all about the questions.

“The goal is not to do the thinking for them,” he says. Corbitt, an ELA teacher, believes literacy is not just about reading and writing but about empowering students to become “critically engaged citizens” and that includes questioning the world around them.

In September, Corbitt, age 26 and in his fourth year of teaching, was named to the International Literacy Association’s “30 Under 30 List,” which recognizes “rising leaders” from 12 countries, including teachers, nonprofit leaders, authors, researchers and others at the start of their careers who are promoting “literacy in all its forms to those who need it most.”

John Maldonado, a teacher at P 368/Star Academy in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, also was recognized for his work helping students with autism develop literacy skills.

Read the full article at the United Federation of Teachers website.

Back to School: How to Be the Best Advocate for Your Child

Shirly Ulfan with students at Aleph Bet Academy, a preschool she founded last year. Photo by Irene Ulfan-Coopersmith


It’s the start of a new school year. As a parent, you want to give your child every chance to succeed. But what’s the best way for you to help? How can you work with teachers and other school staff—who, let’s face it, see more of your child than you do—to make sure your favorite student is getting what they need?

FORDHAM magazine checked in with some alumni of the University’s Graduate School of Education—professionals who work with students ranging in age from preschool to high school—to ask them for some guidance. Here’s what they had to say.

Read the full story in Fordham Magazine.

Webinar: Innovations in Education: Wednesday, August 17

f4d58-bondieDr. Rhonda Bondie will be a panelist for an Innovation in Education webinar on Wednesday, August 17th from 4-5pm EST.

Learn from leading experts about innovations in education. The webinar will include guidance and advice from five panelists, as well as ample opportunity to ask the speakers questions.

Gain insight about educational needs, solutions, and innovations. What are the best strategies for early childhood education? How can schools best inspire and motivate creativity and quality learning? How do programs connect with and offer opportunities to talented low-income students?

Leading experts will discuss a range of education topics which are applicable to anyone interested or involved in education in the U.S. or internationally.


Educator Measures Upside of Educational Diversity in Classroom

photo by Patrick Verel

When teachers greet new classes this fall, the odds are good that the students they encounter will vary not only by cultural background but also in academic proficiency.

Akane Zusho, PhD, associate professor of school psychology in the Graduate School of Education (GSE), said that such diversity is something to be appreciated, not overcome.

“How do you get teachers to not teach to the middle? To differentiate their instruction so that they’re not boring the kids at the top and leaving all the kids at the bottom behind? It’s not easy,” she said.

To help teachers work with students of varying academic abilities, Zusho has partnered with Rhonda Bondie, PhD, assistant professor of curriculum and teaching at the GSE to create All-Ed (All Learners Learning Every Day), a network of instructional routines pulled from research on learning and motivation.

Motivation has long been a focus of Zusho’s research. In order to determine what motivates a student, said Zusho, a teacher needs to get to know their students’ strengths and interests and to help students understand how they think about a particular topic. But many teachers never delve deep enough.

Teachers, she said, “just assume students know something when they come in because they taught it yesterday … they don’t reconfirm their students’ knowledge.”

“When they start a lesson, for example, do they actually get a sense of what students already know? Because from the psychological perspective, we know that makes a huge impact on how kids learn.”

Read the full post at Fordham News.

“How we pervert compassion in schools”

florinarodovFlorina Rodov ’07 (Adolescence English) is a former high school English teacher. She founded and is the co-executive director of Authentic Manhattan, a nonprofit providing after-school programs for low-income, gifted students. Read her full piece, “How we pervert compassion in schools” on

When my family and I were new immigrants who’d just moved into our first apartment in New York, a windowless studio in Queens, a distinguished doctor and his teenage daughter paid us a visit. The doctor was a volunteer with the Jewish nonprofit HIAS, which resettled Soviet refugees like us in the 1970s and 1980s. The second his daughter laid eyes on our donated, urine-stained couch, she exclaimed, “They’re so poor!” I was only 3 at the time, but still I averted my eyes in shame and refused to interact with her for the duration of her visit.

Luckily, I never experienced such pity or judgment in school. The public schools I attended included students who were Russian, Israeli, Pakistani, Turkish and Egyptian immigrants, among students from an array of other backgrounds. Few of us had money and many of us had problems: parents who struggled to find work, missed the old country or suffered from depression. But our teachers never felt sorry for us. They expected us to succeed despite our adversities.

Unfortunately, that isn’t the case today — or at least it isn’t among those in the worlds of education, politics, nonprofits and the media, who bombard us with images of low-income children as unteachable. Many of these people have a sick obsession with the word “poverty;” they shout it on Twitter, nod when they hear it from talking heads on TV, whisper it over lattes and trumpet it as an excuse for failure.

Read the full article at

Learning, Teaching, and Promoting Bilingual Education: a Q&A with Siqi Tao ’17

Siqi Tao Bilingual Childhood EducationSiqi Tao ’17 is a student in the Bilingual Childhood Education program. She recently discussed her experiences as an international student in New York City and at Fordham GSE.

Why do you want to be a teacher?
I really like to share what I know with others, not only  my peers but also children. I appreciate the opportunity to grow up together with children: when I am teaching them, I am also learning from them, about how they think of the world, especially how they think of the different cultures and customs between different countries.

Why did you choose to study in America?
I majored in Teaching Chinese as a Foreign Language when I was an undergraduate student, and I would like to be a bilingual teacher to teach both Mandarin and English to children. I believe it doesn’t mean just teaching two languages; it also includes the culture and behavior behind them. I decided to study in America to take a closer look at the cultures and customs and to benefit my future teaching career, whether in the U.S. or China.

Why did you choose Fordham and the Bilingual Childhood Education program?
The Bilingual Childhood Education program at Fordham University is well structured, and the curriculum is detailed, with all the courses titles and schedule posted online. So we don’t have to worry about failing to graduate on time.

The GSE provides us a lot of opportunities to do observation and student teaching in different schools, so that we can experience diverse teaching styles and work with and learn from experienced teachers, as well as prepare ourselves to become qualified teachers. Besides, there is more and more 2nd or 3rd generation Chinese immigrants living in New York, and it’s extremely important for them to know more about Chinese language and culture.

So I came here, to learn, to teach, and to promote bilingual education.

What has been your most exciting New York City experience?
I was volunteer in the Fantastic Art of China exhibition at Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. It was held to celebrate the new year of China, and I have never thought that I could have a chance to celebrate Chinese Festivals in the United States. It was a fantastic event with about 580 pieces of artwork exhibited and a series of follow-up activities, like light show at the Empire State Building and firework show near the Hudson River. I really appreciate the opportunity to participate in preparation of a big event. And there are a lot of other events in NY to celebrate New Year of different countries: you’ll never feel lonely.

Watch Siqi and her fellow students discuss their experiences at Fordham GSE. Watch on Youku.

What are the biggest differences you’ve found between Chinese and American classrooms?
I would like to talk more about the elementary school classroom because I found it is totally different from classrooms in China. The biggest difference is that in China, we have different teachers to teach different subjects, like Chinese language and arts, Math, History, Chemistry, etc. One teacher just has to get familiar with one or two subjects. However, in the American, one teacher teaches most of the subjects such as ELA, Math, Social Study, Science, and Art. At first it really shocked me that teachers have so many responsibilities in American classrooms! But after my observation of some elementary schools, I realized that this model could be much more efficient to bridge the gaps among different disciplines at early years.

What advice do you have for students thinking of studying in New York and/or at Fordham?

  1. Get yourself well prepared: search for as much information about the program as you can before you come to the U.S., and read more English materials; try to strengthen resistance of pressure and always be strong.
  2. Be a time manager: learn to organize your time to study and to have fun, and never burden yourself by too much study or work.
  3. Be social: know more people, and keep contact with your close friends.
  4. Get more experience: go traveling with friends, or do some volunteer job during summer vacation.

Ivan Borras ’15 Receives Marva Collins Excellence in Teaching Award

by Dr. Diane Rodriguez


Ivan Borras (center) with Drs. Su-Je Cho (left) and Diane Rodriguez (right)

Mr. Ivan Borras ’15 (Adolescent Special Education) has received the 2016 Marva Collins Excellence in Teaching Award from the Division for Learning Disabilities of the Council for Exceptional Children. He currently teaches at Entrada Academy X384. Ivan Borras, who was born and raised in the Bronx, had to overcome numerous adversities growing up; accordingly, he has a strong understanding of the trials and tribulations affecting youths in urban areas. As a product of the community and the public school system, he feels it is not only his obligation to give back, but also to be the best role model he can be. Borras cannot say college was in his thoughts when he graduated from high school; he had other priorities that pushed education out of reach though he envied the few peers who attended college and, more so, those who resided on campus.

Borras has been serving the Bronx community since 2004. First, he became a paraprofessional despite not knowing what the position entailed. The very first step was taking the ATAS exam (Assessment of Teaching Assistant Skills), which he passed successfully without any prior knowledge of the content, and became a substitute paraprofessional. This experience brought him closer to the teaching profession.

borras2Borras decided to become a certified special education teacher in order to improve the academic experience of culturally and linguistically diverse students with disabilities. He was able to relate to students and possessed an innate ability to draw students’ attention. Where teachers lacked classroom management, Borras would take initiative to not only assist, but at times conduct, lessons. Borras had found his passion in life: to help the youth of New York City. He soon became highly sought out by several schools for permanent employment. After receiving a permanent position, he utilized the academic resources provided by the Department of Education. One of those resources was a partial tuition scholarship, which Borras used to complete his undergraduate education at Mercy College. Ten years from the time he started with the New York City Public School system, Borras became a certified Special Education teacher and acquired a master’s degree in special education with a specialization to teach students with learning disabilities.

Borras comes to school with an excitement and zeal to make great things happen with his students. He has gained the respect of all the students he has worked with and from his colleagues as well. His students respect Mr. Borras because he passionately cares for their learning. Mr. Borras does not see his students as individuals who go from his class like an assembly line, but as students who need a lot of attention, specific strategies, and tons of caring in order for them to respond to instruction. Mr. Borras is able to reach that level of rapport that sets him apart in how he speaks to the students and demands the best that they have in a manner that makes it non-threatening for the student.

borras3Mr. Borras is a fighter. He fights for his students relentlessly. He will challenge any initiative that will not allow his students to learn or achieve effectively in his class. He will build an argument and show others how the curriculum may not fit his students’ needs. Importantly, rather than convey negativity about extant circumstances, he offers alternatives, which might involve creating a curriculum with the proper scaffolds, differentiation and strategies that will allow his students to navigate through the work, achieving mastery and independence.

One of the most notable and fundamental aspects of Mr. Borras’s work is his understanding of youth development and how it applies to students in special education classes. Mr. Borras’s work in the classroom includes strategies that will bring the group together in a round table discussion, smaller group setting, or paired work. Students will rotate in stations in his class, get up from their seats and work on charts in various places in the classroom and still have opportunities for sharing and writing. Mr. Borras goes above and beyond the call of duty by volunteering to work with students on weekends.

The elation Mr. Borras now feels, having gained a profession position that enables him to work with diverse students, despite the adversities he faced, provides insights into why he is a teacher in one of the poorest congressional districts in the nation. It is his homage to the students and teachers of the Bronx, who have helped shape who he is. Mr. Borras loves children, and that is one of the reasons he wanted to became a teacher, to help children, to make a difference in their lives, and to encourage them to reach their fullest potential. Mr. Borras strives to emphasize the important role of education. He will continue to empower his students to be confident and see themselves as creators of their own futures. Through his thoughtful, effective, and inspiring approach to teaching, his students will develop innovative and principled ideas, and their leadership will enlighten the world.

Dr. John Lawry ’72 on the Importance of Caring in Teaching


Dr. John Lawry ’72 (Educational Psychology)

Dr. John Lawry ’72 (Educational Psychology) is professor emeritus at the former Marymount College of Fordham University. He recently published “Talking Back: Caring Still Matters: ‘Teaching is an act of Love’ – Pope Francis” in Conversations on Jesuit Higher Education.

In it, he responds to results of a recent Gallup poll indicating that “63 percent of the respondents had a professor who made them excited about learning, only 27 percent had a professor who cared about them, and only 22 percent had a mentor who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams.” Dr. Lawry goes on to discuss why caring is important in teaching why there may be a “crisis in caring” in American higher education. Read the full article.

Read Dr. Lawry’s previous publications:


Teach Math as You Would Reading, says Education Professor


Photo by Patrick Verel

If you had to look up every word in a dictionary in order to finish reading a newspaper article, your brain might end up sacrificing the deeper meaning of the story. Could relying on a calculator to do math have a similar effect?

That’s the crux of research by Yi Ding, PhD, associate professor of school psychology in the Graduate School of Education.

Ding’s research focuses on strategies that teachers can use to help children who are struggling with math. She makes the case that memorization of basic math facts, such as multiplication tables, is key because it allows children to store information in their long-term memory, and frees up their working memory to tackle more complex problems. For example, adults don’t have to actively remember their own names or birthdays because those facts are readily available in their long-term memory, which works on auto-retrieve.

“If you have to decode every word you are reading, what happens? You don’t have reading comprehension at all because your working memory is occupied by saying each letter. Your attention can’t go to the who, the how, the where, and the what,” she said.

“Math facts are the same. We have to memorize or automatically retrieve all this mathematical vocabulary so kids have this kind of fluency. Then their brain–their working memory–frees up to understand more complicated problems.”

Read the full story at Fordham News.