Cesar Batalla Partnership Continues to Grow
The Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP) in partnership with the Center for Faith and Public Life (CFPL) has developed a strong service learning program with Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport over the last six years. The partnership has grown to place 70-80 Fairfield University students in classrooms at Cesar Batalla each week during the semester, while also providing opportunities for the students to visit campus for special events.
While at Cesar Batalla, Fairfield students assist teachers with a variety of subjects, with literacy as a key concentration. For the most part, the service learning follows a “push in model” where Fairfield students go directly into the classroom to allow Cesar Batalla students the ability to continue to learn from their assigned teachers, while also receiving the benefit of additional help and support.
Dr. Stephanie Storms, associate professor in Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation, shared, “We included kindergarten classes this year at the request of Cesar Batalla teachers who felt it was important to secure additional assistance for the needs of their students who are primarily English Language Learners.”
Each week at Cesar Batalla, Fairfield students practice crucial skills with the students to build their understanding and expertise in key subject matters. For example, in Dr. Betsy A. Bowen’s Literacy and Language course, Fairfield students work with 2nd graders to enhance the students’ literacy skills and engage in one-on-one tutoring to practice sight words, word decoding and reading and writing.
In the class, Explorations in Education, taught by Dr. Patricia Calderwood, professor in Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation, and Dr. Stephanie Storms, Fairfield students work with 14 classes, including kindergarten, 1st and 4th grade, during their regularly scheduled literacy block to build the students’ literacy skills.
Lina Foncello ’19 who has taken both the Literacy and Language and Explorations in Education classes shared, “I have enjoyed building relationships with the students I worked with because it made me realize the impact I can have on someone in such a short amount of time. I also really enjoyed learning what makes an effective classroom and how teachers need to be able to adapt to constant change. It was an eye- opening experience and I cannot wait to continue on this path.”
Freshmen who participate in the Service Learning Group as part of the University’s First-Year Experience Program (FYE) also work at Cesar Batalla as mentors to students who can benefit from specialized support. FYE students assist these students with their homework and coach them in areas such as time management. “One of the primary goals of FYE is to introduce students to the Jesuit values,” said Melissa Quan, director of the Center for Faith and Public Life. “The opportunity to work with Cesar Batalla allows us to put Jesuit values into action and bring them to life.”
In addition to academic support, the partnership task force organizes special events for Cesar Batalla students to visit campus. On October 5, 2016 a group of 50 students in grades 3-8 visited campus to watch the Fairfield women’s soccer team play MAAC opponent, Saint Peter’s University. During their visit students had the chance to meet members of the women’s soccer team and Lucas the Stag. The game was especially significant for these students because they had been participating in the Ole soccer program at Cesar Batalla and were selected from a lottery of 100 students.
“This was a wonderful experience for Cesar Batalla students to see where many of their tutors come from and attend school,” said Johana Rendon-Ledesma ’16, CTCC AmeriCorps VISTA and partnership coordinator for the Center for Faith and Public Life.
Next month two bilingual kindergarten classes will visit the BCC to hear from students of Professor M. Covadonga Arango-Martin’s Elementary Spanish class, who will read their children’s book, which they’ve prepared as part of their final presentation for the class. Students will also have the chance to meet Lucas the Stag and take a tour of campus.
“Partnership is not easy,” shared Melissa Quan. “It takes commitment and persistence. Having Johana with us this year has made a real difference and we are seeing the outcomes as teachers, faculty and student alike demonstrate enhanced learning and excitement about the work.”
The partnership task force is in the process of planning service learning opportunities and special events for Cesar Batalla and Fairfield students next semester. These activities are made possible through support from task force members that include faculty and staff at both Fairfield University and Cesar Batalla School.