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.

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.

Longtime Fordham Employee Celebrates Family’s First College Grad


When Verenika Lasku reflects on the time she and her husband Bobby spent raising three children in the Bronx on just his custodial salary, she doesn’t sugar coat it, noting plainly, “It was really hard.”

The two immigrated to the Belmont neighborhood from Kosovo in 1995. While her husband worked, Lasku stayed at home and raised their three children. But when their youngest entered kindergarten, she also began looking for work in custodial services. Two years later, she landed a job just a few blocks from their Arthur Avenue home, at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus.

On May 21, 10 years of scrubbing, sweeping, mopping, dusting, and setting up for campus events finally paid off, as Valentina, the oldest of their children, earned a master’s from the Graduate School of Education (GSE). Valentina had already earned a bachelor’s in psychology last year from Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH), but the day was no less sweet for Verenika.

“I’m so proud of her. It’s even better with a master’s,” she said.

Read the full story at Fordham News.

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:


“Our job is to repair the world”: A Q&A with Dr. Jane Bolgatz

Dr. Jane Bolgatz is a professor of Adolescence Social Studies. She started her career as an English and Social Studies teacher before earning her PhD at the University of Iowa. She recently discussed her research on race and racism, her personal philosophy, and her favorite books.

What was your dissertation on?
My dissertation was about how teachers and students talked about race and racism in a high school class. At that point I called it “Barriers and Breakthroughs.” Over time, I rethought that idea and realized that the barriers aren’t really barriers; they’re opportunities. A lot of my work since is figuring out how to get people to talk about race and what we need to talk about when we talk about race and racism.

As a teacher, I didn’t know how to get kids to talk about race and racism. It seemed to be a really important thing that people didn’t understand. I didn’t entirely understand it; I didn’t know how to talk about it. Some of it was for my own sake.

How have the resources or information surrounding the topic changed since you started your research?
There is way more people writing about it…well, maybe I just wasn’t reading enough at the time. And they are writing and talking about it very differently.

In the 90s, a lot of people talked about multiculturalism. There was a lot of “heroes and holidays,” meaning we’ll make different foods and celebrate culture.

Now, people are talking much more explicitly about how the goal of these conversations needs to be addressing and ending racism. People are getting clearer about their goals, like tackling the institutional racism. Whereas before, people may simply ask “Do we have a Black Studies course in our syllabus?” they are now more interested in talking about systematic oppression. For example, at Fordham, what are the institutional ways in which whites are privileged by our institutional culture?

What insights have come out from research that might help inform colleges about multicultural issues on campus and help them work to promote change?
Having people learn about what a microaggression is can be very helpful because then they can recognize it in themselves and others.

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults towards people of color.” Those who inflict racial microaggressions are often unaware that they have done anything to harm another person.” (Sue, D.W., Capodilupo, C., Torino, G, Bucceri, J., Holder, A., Nadal, K., & Equin, M. (2007). Racial Microaggressions in Everyday Life: Implications for Clinical Practice. The American Psychologist , 62 (4) 271-286.

The goal is not feel judgment because microaggressions are unintentional. The important this is to ask how we can understand the mistakes that we are making, the impact that they are having, and change it.

What was the biggest challenge you noticed in running workshops like you did at the Racial Justice Teach-In at Fordham?
Changing attitudes and behaviors takes a lot of time. White people are taught not to talk about race – they are scared of offending people. In our research, it’s taken me years to get kindergarten teachers to mention race. They are so nervous about it.

In general, people have to catch up on their education. Ta Nehisi Coates, who wrote Between the World and Me, James Baldwin, and other people have said and are saying that we aren’t taught this history. We aren’t taught the history of white resistance to racism or the history of people of color being empowered and being powerful. We certainly aren’t taught the history of white privilege and the oppression of people of color.

Have you seen other examples in schools of things changing?
I had a student in my Teaching and Assessing Adolescents class, where I taught a lesson on microaggressions, whom I later observed during his student teaching. He was teaching an ancient Greek history lesson. After his morning session, I pointed out that the lesson was very heteronormative. He was assuming everyone was heterosexual in the way he was talking about ancient history. He said, “oh I get it that’s a microaggression.”

In the afternoon, I observed the same lesson and he changed his lesson. He talked in a more open way, not assuming that everyone was going to be straight.

That is what I am able to do because of both my position as a field supervisor and as a professor. I can connect the theory from my own lessons to the students’ practice in their fieldwork. Sometimes there is a disconnect between what teacher educators say in the ivory tower and then what actually happens in schools. We try really hard at Fordham to bridge theory and practice.

If you weren’t doing what you do now, what would you do for a career?
Oh, I have no idea. I mean, I loved being a high school teacher. I loved it. So, does that count? I have no idea, I just love this job so much. When I was a kid the only reason I wanted to become a teacher is because I couldn’t be a camp counselor year round. Now they have camps year round so I might want to go back and run a year round camp where I get to teach kids how to swim or have kids stay out in the woods and go hiking and camping.

What is your favorite age to work with?
It depends on the size of the group. I like working with adults. I loved working with high school kids.

I don’t really have experience with elementary school kids except the 8-year-old that lives in my house. It is interesting because when you talk to like 4th or 5th graders, there is a way in which they haven’t got all the social jargon. Their thinking and language is different from what the socially used terms are. And those socially used terms change depending on who you are and your generation, like the way I talk about race is different from the way my parents talk about race. You have to have a conversation with the 8 year old so you can have the conversation with the 14 year old.

Do you have a personal philosophy that has grounded you through your work or life?
My dad was the child of a Hebrew teacher so I grew up with some philosophically Jewish teachings about how one should live in the world and be a mensch.

It is just really important to love, and to have fun and make the world better. Tikkun Olam, which is a Judaic concept meaning “our job is to repair the world.”

Do you have an all-time favorite book?
One of my all-time favorite books is Stone Butch Blues. I love James Baldwin’s Nobody Knows My Name.

Juanita de Guzman Gutierrez ’96 Publishes “Speak Tagalog: A Basic Primer”


Juanita de Guzman Gutierrez as a Novice

Juanita de Guzman Gutierrez (Reading Literacy MSE) published Speak Tagalog: A Basic Primer with Outskirts Press. The book covers the basics of conversational Tagalog, as well as the language’s history, its alphabet, and prayers.

Tagalog is the primary or secondary language for a majority of Philippines residents. Since approximately 93% of Filipinos are Catholic, Gutierrez included Holy Rosary prayers for readers.

“This book would make a valuable addition to high schools, universities, and consular offices—for those seeking to further diplomatic relations, continue their adult education, or even for children of Philippine mixed marriages who want to study their mother tongue. It’s good to be a linguist!” says Gutierrez.

Gutierrez spent ten years teaching English and journalism, and serving as the school newspaper adviser in the Philippines before moving to New York City in 1987 to teach. For the next nine years, she taught in the Archdiocese of New York and then spent fourteen years teaching in the New York City public schools.

coverAfter her teaching career, Gutierrez became a pre-post postulant and postulant at the Monastery of Holy Mary in Rockville, Virginia. She was unable to continue her religious life due to family illness and now spends her time traveling and writing books. Read more about Gutierrez and her book, Speak Tagalog.

When asked whether she wanted to send a message to the Fordham GSE community, Gutierrez replied “Go, Fordham, you’re the best!!!”