Holmes Program Grows Pool of Minority Teachers

Ian Stygar, Sayantani Nandy and Faith Kioko present on their year in the Holmes Master’s Program at Eastern’s annual luncheon.

School districts across the nation continue to face a lack of minority teachers. Eastern Connecticut State University’s participation in the Holmes Master’s Program seeks to alleviate this problem. On June 28, Eastern celebrated three aspiring teachers from underrepresented backgrounds who will soon enter the teaching profession. Faith Kioko (Ashford), Ian Stygar (Lebanon) and Sayantani Nandy (Ellington) were honored at the annual Holmes Master’s Luncheon, hosted by the School of Education & Professional Studies and Graduate Division.

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education’s (AACTE) Holmes Program supports students from historically underrepresented groups who are pursuing careers in education. Eastern continued its partnership with Holmes, hosting its third cohort of Master’s students this year.

The Holmes Master’s students (podium) hosted a panel on educational leadership on April 4.

The 2019 cohort of full-time graduate students had a busy year in pursuit of teacher certification. In addition, they designed research proposals, worked in Eastern’s Center for Early Childhood Education, presented to classes and hosted forums on campus. They interviewed alumni teachers and gathered data for the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP). They also attended the AACTE’s annual Washington Week and advocated on educational policy.

“I believe all children are unique and must have a stimulating educational environment where they can grow and meet their full potential,” said Kioko, a candidate for teacher certification in early childhood education. “The Holmes Program helped me to pursue my career and has enriched me with professional training and mentorship.”

As part of her Holmes activities, Kioko wrote a research proposal titled “Dismantling Systemic Racism.” The project looked at the effects of race on access to opportunities; implicit bias and its influence on educational policy; and the disproportionate suspension rates for African American students.

Sayantani Nandy presents at Eastern’s CREATE conference on the university’s Education Preparation Program (EPP), which is in the process of being re-accredited by CAEP — the Council of Accreditation for Education Programs.

“To support our students’ social and emotional well-being, we must acknowledge and confront the legacy of racism and exclusion in our schools and communities,” said Kioko. As a teacher, she hopes to empower students, inspire lifelong learning and involve parents in the process.

A candidate for teacher certification in elementary education, Stygar looks forward to impacting the lives of young people from impoverished communities. “I specifically want to work with students from low-income areas because they are often the students who receive the least support,” he said. “Teaching allows me to work closely with students and hopefully help them understand the importance of being a lifelong learner as well as the importance of being a good person regardless of race or gender.”

Much of Stygar’s time in the program was spent interviewing undergraduate teacher candidates at Eastern. “This allowed me to see how the career of teaching is viewed from the perspective of freshman and sophomore students,” he said, noting that the teaching profession is not attracting enough males.

Eventually Stygar would like to move into administration, ultimately becoming a school principal. “It’s a dream of mine to develop a program that recruits males into the elementary education profession, as well as spread awareness of the importance of males in primary grades.”

Nandy has wanted to be a teacher ever since kindergarten. “I would come home and play ‘teacher,'” she said. “My English teacher in elementary school was a great motivator; I wanted to be someone like her.”

A candidate for teacher certification in early childhood education, Nandy originally wanted to teach at the post-secondary level. The birth of her son and the experience of substitute teaching younger children convinced her to shift focus to early childhood education.

Nandy would eventually like to further her studies in the areas of experiential learning and inclusive education. “Digging deep in the field would help me integrate my learnings into my teachings, and address the learning needs of my students,” she said.

The Holmes Program at Eastern is coordinated by Education Professor Tanya Moorehead, a Holmes Scholar herself. “Hosting the Holmes Program fits with the mission and vision of Eastern,” she said in a previous press release. “The education field as a whole is predominately white female, particularly in elementary school. This gives us a way to recruit and develop different faces and backgrounds in the teaching world, because the faces that we’re teaching aren’t always represented by the faces that are teaching them.”

Written by Michael Rouleau