Tag Archives: Education

Ottilia Beha: An Extraordinary NYC Educator


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OttiliaBehaclassJust a few months after losing a re-election bid as county school commissioner, Ottilia Beha accepted a position in New York City, where she began teaching in 1903. By 1909, she had taught at several public schools in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Queens, and had served as assistant principal at two facilities, gaining valuable experience.

In fall of that year, she was among 258 teachers to take the licensing exam for elementary school principal. Ottilia finished at the top of the group, leading to a promotion as principal of a Brooklyn school with 800 students and a staff of 19 employees. Continue reading

Ottilia Beha: Extraordinary Lewis County Educator


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OttiliaBehaclassFor most of us, there are one or more teachers who made a difference in how our lives turned out. It might have been their kindness, teaching ability, understanding, or enthusiasm that inspired or affected us deeply. Whether you’re young or old, they remain “Mr.” or “Mrs.” to you throughout life, even if your ages differ by only a decade. It’s partly force of habit, but the special ones merit a lifetime of respect for one compelling reason: they made a difference.

For a great many folks attending school in Lewis County in the years on both sides of 1900, and an even larger group in a distant city, that person was Ottilia Beha. Such an unusual name was fitting for an unusually dedicated teacher. Continue reading

NYS History, The Common Core, And Social Studies


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State Education Building by Matt Wade Photography (Wikimedia User UpstateNYer)The Common Core continues to be in the news, so recently I attended “Uncommon Approaches to the Common Core 2: Inquiry-based Learning Access across the Disciplines” held August 12-13 at the Office of Education in Albany.

One session included 10 breakout groups by geographic area. In the Mid-Hudson discussion group there were about 13 people, double that number in New York City including 10 people from the Queens Library who were not on the attendance list, and over 60 people at the Capital Region group. Some of the other regions were even less attended than the Mid-Hudson group. Continue reading

Bruce Dearstyne: New York History And Education


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State Education Building by Matt Wade Photography (Wikimedia User UpstateNYer)How, and how much, should New York’s young people learn about the history of their own state and community?

The answer to the question of what young people learn about history comes down mostly to what they learn in school social studies classes. New York revised its social studies curriculum from 2012 to 2014 and you can review the results, adopted by the Regents last April online. There is more New York history at the 4th grade level than in the older standards, but almost nothing about local history. Continue reading

Inside Ocean Hill–Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education


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Inside Ocean Hill BrownsvilleIn 1968 the conflict that erupted over community control of the New York City public schools was centered in the black and Puerto Rican community of Ocean Hill–Brownsville. It triggered what remains the longest teachers’ strike in US history.

That clash, between the city’s communities of color and the white, predominantly Jewish teachers’ union, paralyzed the nation’s largest school system, undermined the city’s economy, and heightened racial tensions, ultimately transforming the national conversation about race relations. A new memoir, Inside Ocean Hill–Brownsville: A Teacher’s Education, 1968-69 (SUNY Press, 2014) has been written by Charles S. Isaacs, a teacher who crossed the picket lines. Continue reading

Educators: State Ed Department Needs Your Feedback


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State Education Building by Matt Wade Photography (Wikimedia User UpstateNYer)The Board of Regents adopted the New York State K-12 Social Studies Framework at their April 2014 meeting. Since then, the K-12 Social Studies Resource Toolkit project has begun and the creation of a field guide to provide guidance on the instructional impacts of the Framework is underway.

In addition to this work, the State Education Department (SED) is also thinking about how best to restructure the Global History and Geography and United States History and Government Regents examinations. In tackling this task, SED is looking for help informing their decision making. In order to gain the valuable feedback educators in the field can provide, four questions are being asked: Continue reading

Remembering America’s Fallen In Every Community


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800px-American_military_cemetery_2003There is a special group of people who are remembered by a society. These are the fallen, those who die in battle on behalf of something larger than themselves. In the Bible there is an infrequently used term “nephilim” from the verb “to fall.”

Based on the archaeological evidence, the Nephilim appear to have been part of group who were remembered in Canaanite societies in the Middle and Late Bronze Age (second millennium BCE). These fallen warriors were remembered in feasts and stories just as warriors who have fallen in battle are still remembered today. It’s part of the human experience. Continue reading

Farms And Food:
Teaching the Hudson Valley from the Ground Up


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WoodstockDayJune2014Educators and the public are invited to discover new and innovative ways to learn about the region’s culture, history, and future at Farms & Food: Teaching the Hudson Valley from the Ground Up, a conference to be held July 29-31 at the Henry A. Wallace Education and Visitors Center on the grounds of the Franklin D. Roosevelt Home and Presidential Library in Hyde Park.

The keynote address, “Educating our Next Generation to Eat with Consciousness,” features Pam Koch, associate professor of nutrition education and executive director, Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, & Policy, Teachers College, Columbia University.  In addition, Koch will lead a workshop, “Empowered Eaters: Making Connections through Food and Nutrition Education.” To see Koch cooking with her own children, visit Kids Cook Monday. Continue reading

NYS History Education: A View From the Street


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Charging_Bull_statueI recently returned from the 35th annual conference on New York State History in Poughkeepsie, which I attended for the first time. I understand this was the largest convocation of history professionals in New York State, and that the attendance at this conference was the highest ever. As my perspective and background is perhaps slightly different from most attendees at the conference, I feel it appropriate to provide certain observations.

Unfortunately, while others at the conference were somewhat more upbeat, my perception is that for the reasons set forth below there is at all levels an appalling lack of knowledge about critical elements of the history of New York State, and that we as a society suffer from this lack of knowledge every day. While I believe there are individuals in the history community who are in good faith seeking to address this problem, I am not sure that the efforts are close to adequate.

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Uncommon Approaches to the Common Core Event


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State Education Building by Matt Wade Photography (Wikimedia User UpstateNYer)The NYS Education Department’s Office of Cultural Education’s second Uncommon Approaches to the Common Core conference will be held in Albany on Tuesday, August 12, and Wednesday, August 13, 2014.

Proposals for an interactive lab in one of six curriculum areas are invited: The Arts, English Language Arts, Math, Science, Language other than English (LOTE), or Social Studies. Lessons or curriculum used during the lab must be aligned to the Common Core Learning Standards and must demonstrate inquiry through the use of primary sources and/or other cultural resources, such as historic objects, multimedia objects, maps, works of art, or natural resources such as plants, soil or rocks. Continue reading

Legislation Would Create A NYS History Commission


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nycapitolRecently I wrote about my lobbying experience in Albany and offered a number of suggestions about what needed to be done. Those posts generated responses on the difficultly of lobbying and the need to have an agenda.  The likelihood of the history community organizing around a single agenda seemed slim.

I am pleased to report however, that there is proposed legislation in the New York State Assembly which would mark such a giant leap forward. It’s so good, I can scarcely believe it exists. The legislation is from Steve Englebright (D- Setauket).  Continue reading

Rockland County:
Thurgood Marshall’s 1940s Desegregation Case


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Brook students being turned away from the Hillburn SchoolDr. Travis Jackson often quotes this African proverb: “Until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter.”

As one of the 49 children at the center of a successful desegregation case in Rockland County in 1943, Dr. Jackson will be a special guest at a ceremony in Hillburn, New York on Saturday, May 17. The event commemorates the 60th anniversary of a subsequent legal decision, the landmark Brown V. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. The program will also remember the lawyer who was on the winning side in both cases, Thurgood Marshall. As an eyewitness to this epic hunt for equality, Jackson has become the historian for the lions. Continue reading

Notes On A High School Local History Conference


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SchoolThe high school local history conference is something I recommend every county should do. For the past two years, Rockland County has held such a conference. I attended both conferences and spoke briefly at the first one. This post is dedicated to some of the lessons I learned from the conference.

First, the Historical Society of Rockland County and the County Historian are to be congratulated for organizing the conference and for the people who did attend. The list includes the County Executive, the County Clerk, the County District Attorney, the County Legislative Chair, along with various town supervisors and municipal historians. One never knows where one will find history. For example the District Attorney, who in this case followed in his father’s footsteps, may have tales to tell about prosecutions which became part of the fabric of county history. Certainly the presence of these officials delivered a powerful message in support of local history. Continue reading

Bill Hosley: A Call To Localize Humanities Funding


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Peale The Artist in His MuseumI value the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH). I have been a grant review panelist and recipient of grants. Indeed Acting NEH Director Andrea Anderson was the program officer I worked with 30 years ago on “The Great River: Art & Society of the CT Valley” (1985). Without NEH, that project would have been impossible.

I have always had a passion for local history and small museums and especially house museums. I started out in one in Vermont in the 1970s. I am not one who thinks there are “too many house museums.” I think there is too little equity in the way public funds and private foundations involved in the arts and humanities are distributed. I am concerned that too little of that support reaches down to that half of the museum industry comprised of organizations that are small. Continue reading

Spring Break Mini-Camps at John Jay Homestead


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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJohn Jay Homestead State Historic Site will host its popular Spring Break Mini-Camps for children aged 5 to 10, Monday through Friday, April 14th through 18th.  Each camp will last two hours, and be operated as a drop-off program.

On Monday, April 14th, from 10 am to noon, the program will be “Then & Now”.  What was it like living 200 years ago?  What did people do for heat and light?  Where did their food and water come from?  Children will explore the Carriage Barn Discovery Center, interact with artifacts from long ago, and make hand-dipped candles. Continue reading