Since the spring of 2010, Long Island teaching assistants and several teacher aides working toward teaching assistant certification have earned an impressive 354 undergraduate credits through NYSUT's Education & Learning Trust.
"This is an outstanding achievement," said NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue, whose office oversees School-Related Professionals for the union. "Continual professional development is not only a requirement for certification, it is a critical component of NYSUT's mission."
The classes, held at the NYSUT Suffolk Regional Office in Hauppauge, are offered in collaboration with Cazenovia College and Adelphi University. The 354 credits represent 104 seats in seven undergraduate courses.
"The support of NYSUT's Suffolk Regional Office has been phenomenal. They've made it possible for so many TAs to maintain certification," said Annie McClintock, president of the United Teaching Assistants of Harborfields and a member of NYSUT's SRP Advisory Committee.
"A local may only have one or two TAs who need to take a course and that is not enough to hold a class," explained McClintock. She reached out to SRP leaders to coordinate the classes, which comprise students from as many as seven different SRP units on Long Island.
The Hauppauge office meets several needs, said Cathy Rienth, Long Island ELT coordinator, vice president of Sachem Central Teachers' Association and a NYSUT SRP at-large director. "It is a central, easy-to-access location, which is important when you have people traveling from different locals."
Along with the convenience, ELT classes are less expensive, McClintock points out.
"We encourage our members to continually strive to advance their level of education," said Vincent Lyons, NYSUT regional staff director for the Suffolk Regional Office.
Teaching assistant Valerie Buscemi, a member of the Long Beach School Employees Association, has taken multiple courses at the Suffolk office. "With each class I take I'm better equipped to perform my job," said Buscemi, who said she plans to take every ELT course available to her as she pursues her undergraduate degree.
The Suffolk office recently hosted two video teleconferences on teaching assistant certification and a one-day regional conference and workshop attended by more than 100 SRPs.
Teaching assistants must take professional development courses to maintain their state Teaching Assistant Certification. They must also complete an increasing number of semester hours of undergraduate study in order to advance through four certification levels: I, II, III and pre-professional teaching assistant.