Newark Superintendent Roger León Reflects on the Benefits of the Partnership Between Schools and University Faculty
Newark Superintendent Roger León ’96 MA, who has successfully returned city schools to local control following a two-year transition, credits the expertise of partner organizations for their help in strengthening the schools.
“The partnership with Montclair State, it’s definitely on the top of that list,” he says. “The impact has been profound.”
Montclair State has a deep and extensive partnership model with Newark and 33 other New Jersey school districts, a collaboration through the University’s Center of Pedagogy that gives teachers the tools to educate children from diverse backgrounds and help them meet the demands of a changing world.
“The clinical aspect of teaching is one that’s not studied, it’s practiced. So when you have a professor from Montclair State University coming to your respective school district, they are providing what’s not only current research, but also best practices,” León says.
“This isn’t about doing well so that students pass a test. This is about truly teaching and learning. It’s about affording students an opportunity to engage in some critical thinking, unlike perhaps any experience that they’ve had before,” he says.
Marilyn Davis, director of the Montclair State University Network for Educational Renewal (MSUNER), says the school-university partnerships are committed to simultaneous renewal and teacher preparation and education. “Our workshops are bounded by the belief that we must be culturally responsive teachers and we must be able to teach critical thinking in that regard.”
School districts and the University’s education faculty collaborate on the delivery of teacher preparation and teacher programs, and the mentoring of students into the profession. Workshops include culturally responsive teaching, teaching for critical thinking, stewardship of the profession, and strategies for coaching and mentoring. “Those workshops are critical because those are the beliefs that we have that all teachers should be prepared to deliver in the classroom,” Davis says.
“We see ourselves as stewards of the profession’s best practices,” Davis says. “We’re here to nurture our children in their environments and to nurture the profession, and so we nurture our teachers as well.”
Video by Christodoulos Apostolou
Story by Marilyn Lehren