Recently, more than 60 members of the Pingry community, from all three divisions, gathered on Zoom for the school's first-ever HBCU alumni panel. Six Pingry graduates shared their experiences—here's what they had to say.
The Lower School's two-year Associate Teacher program, which includes immersive training and coaching, as well as mentoring from experienced Lower School faculty, supports individuals with a Bachelor's degree who are considering a career in education. Working with Grade 2 this year, Mr. Bearfield joined Pingry for the 2019-20 school year after working as a paraprofessional with students at Rahway High School and Newark Collegiate Academy.
What appealed to you about joining the Associate Teacher program?
I've read many great things about Pingry and all the wonderful opportunities the School offers. When the Associate Teacher program became available, I instantly knew that it was a great opportunity to gain experience working with some of the best faculty and students in New Jersey. The program has given me a deeper insight into my career goals and aspirations.
How is the program benefiting you?
I am being challenged to step out of my comfort zone by teaching subjects I wouldn't consider my strong suit. I'm gaining a substantial amount of knowledge and teaching strategies from my colleagues.
What does a typical day look like, in terms of responsibilities?
I assist the head teachers with morning meetings that help the children get ready for the day. Throughout the day, I either lead or assist teaching lessons on a plethora of subjects. Within these lessons, the head teacher and I typically divide the class into small groups to provide individual attention to each student.
Have you made any adjustments from your first year, and are you giving this year's new Associate Teachers any advice?
After having a year under my belt, I've learned to come in each day with specific goals I want to accomplish. Last year, I entered the building everyday like a sponge with no specific goals in mind—I was open and eager to absorb new information as I gained experience in multiple classrooms/subjects. This year, having something to look forward to allows me to apply specific strategies that will help me achieve my objective for the day. My advice for the new Associate Teachers is to be flexible and become a sponge. I told them it's important to learn and take in as much information as possible. This will help them settle in next year more comfortably.
Could you share a memorable experience or two from the Lower School?
I enjoy the connection I have with my students. I know that I'm making a huge impact when I receive emails and holiday cards from parents expressing their appreciation. Those small acts/words of kindness serve as reassurance. In addition, one memorable experience is from the beginning of the pandemic. When things began to get very chaotic in the world, between the virus and the racial tensions that began to rise in America, my colleagues often reached out to me. Them simply checking in on me to see how I was doing allowed me to understand that I was working in a place that is full of love, support, and inclusion. That's something I would never forget.
Pictured: Lower School Associate Teacher Shamir Bearfield working with students in February 2020.
Contact: Greg Waxberg '96, Communications Writer, Editor of The Pingry Review