St. Gregory the Great School in Williamsville is welcoming a pair of recent college graduates to its elementary school faculty. Madeline Otero and Tiffany LoGiudice begin their careers in Catholic education working with children in the diocese.
Otero, a 2015 graduate of Buffalo State College, will teach fifth- and sixth-grade math. LoGuidice, who received a master's degree in 2009 from the College of St. Rose in Albany, previously worked as a teaching assistant after getting a bachelor's degree from the State University of New York at Buffalo in 2006. LoGuidice will be teaching fourth-grade reading and science classes at St. Greg's this year.
"I'm just so excited to see these young women, with a love of learning and a love of teaching, and an understanding of the character and the nature of the Catholic school," said Sister Carol Cimino, SSJ, superintendent of Catholic schools, of Otero and LoGiudice. "It's always a sign of hope when we attract people like these two young women to join us in our journey with our children."
"I've always loved working with children," Otero said. "I've found I've gotten along with them really well. I think they're just a blessing. When I started high school, I actually wanted to be a music teacher, and then somewhere along the line, I decided I wanted to teach elementary school and teach everything. As I made my way through college, I found my passion for math education."
By working as a math teacher, Otero hopes to remove the negative connotations associated with math as being difficult and frustrating for children. While in school, children often say things such as "I hate math," she said, and they tend to close themselves off to learning and overcoming obstacles.
"Kids, a lot of times, shut themselves down by saying they're not good at it," Otero said. "One of my main goals, as a teacher, is to really change that attitude, because the 'I can do it' attitude usually means that you can do it if you work at it, but the 'I can't' attitude is so debilitating. I need that gone."
Otero said she chose St. Greg's because it works very closely with Buff State, educating junior participants and student teachers. Many of her friends had worked there.
"I've heard amazing things," she said. "The teachers are wonderful, the administration is wonderful and the parents are very involved. When the opportunity came for me to interview, I was like, 'Absolutely. I would love that.' Catholic schools are very special because they incorporate that morality, that love of God, the love of yourself, the love of your neighbor, and so I think it provides a really strong foundation for children, where they're not only learning academics, but they're learning how to be good citizens."
LoGuidice initially pursued an undergraduate degree in communication and marketing, but she came to realize this was not the career path she wanted for herself and changed her mind.
"I wasn't a business type of person," LoGuidice said. "I wanted to be working with children. I would volunteer places, and I like children a lot. I love helping them. I like seeing them learn and be happy. I noticed that a lot of my college friends were always coming to me to study with and get help from me. I made it easier. We worked with each other. I thought I might want to revisit this teaching idea."
After LoGuidice graduated from UB, she went to Albany for a master's in education. While at UB, she took anatomy, physiology and microbiology classes, nurturing her love of science.
"I always wanted to be a science teacher, and that's why I'm so grateful for getting this position," LoGuidice said. "I love science and I love doing experiments. I love getting the children to do hands-on things and actually understand, visually, what it is they're learning."
While growing up in Fishkill and Poughkeepsie in downstate New York, LoGuidice spent pre-K through 12th grade in Catholic schools. They helped shape her own identity growing up.
"I thought St. Greg's would be a great place, and my friend actually teaches there and she loves it," LoGuidice said. "She actually encouraged me to interview there, and I'm glad that I did. They offer their children so many programs I couldn't believe we never even had at my school growing up."
St. Greg's is one of six diocesan schools that will offer the integrated STREAM, or science, technology, religion, engineering, arts and math, program for the first time in the 2015-16 year. The others include Mary Queen of Angels in Cheektowaga, St. Stephen's in Grand Island, St. Mary's in Lancaster, St. John Vianney in Orchard Park, Southtowns Catholic in Lake View and St. Amelia's in Tonawanda.
STREAM provides integrated courses that allow students to learn about the fields that are offering some of the fastest-growing job opportunities, the equivalent of STEM in public schools. Jean Comer and Shelly Reidy, who are responsible for implementing the program in the diocese, were teachers at St. Gregory the Great School. The diocese began STREAM 1.0 in a cohort of 10 pilot schools last year and, within the next four years, the majority of diocesan schools will have the program in their classrooms.
"It's a whole new way of teaching. It's integrated, cooperative learning," Sister Carol said. "We have been talking about working with the community, working with other teachers, and STREAM encourages all of that because you're collaborating with those other teachers. We're taking down the silos that have been: 'I'm the reading teacher and you're the science teacher, and never the twain shall meet.'"