Clare St. Catherine
Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special and General Education '08
I realized that maybe I didn’t have to put my aspirations in one box. There’s so much you can do with a Bank Street degree.
Clare St. Catherine grew up on the island of St. Lucia, where “talk and chalk” was common. She had few hands-on opportunities for learning creativity, and the emotional well-being of students was not prioritized. Children just sat in school, all the information was told to them, and they had to learn it. Because of this experience, she had a desire to do better.
After receiving her undergraduate degree from Medgar Evers College, CUNY, she was a special education assistant at PS 233 in Canarsie, Brooklyn. In this paraprofessional role, Clare knew she had to find a way to share information outside of the classroom with families about the social-emotional learning of their children. Using her creativity, Clare found another CUNY undergraduate program called Unique and Interdisciplinary Studies that would supplement her tuition expenses to complete master’s degree courses in Bank Street’s Infant and Family Development and Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special and General Education program.
Clare said, “Bank Street’s child-centered approach to teaching was an eye-opening experience for me. I learned progressive methods about how the student is at the center and how teaching can be based on the student’s development and the student’s modality of learning. Social-emotional learning is something that people from the Caribbean don’t really practice, and childhood trauma can shape the way children learn. I wanted to do more to help children truly learn–and here was how I was going to start.”
Clare quickly absorbed the Bank Street approach and she fell deeply in love with the idea of working with children in the most important age period of birth to five years old. At Bank Street, she had the opportunity to work alongside social workers to learn about the social-emotional life of children, and another door opened.
She said, “I was learning progressive ways to help families in need, and I realized that maybe I didn’t have to put my aspirations in one box. There’s so much you can do with a Bank Street degree. We were having so many experiences as teachers in training, and along with our fieldwork, we also had a conference group, where we met as a cohort to problem-solve and self-reflect on our own experiences in the classroom. It showed me how I could be helpful to people through psychotherapy,” she said.
Instead of becoming a teacher, Clare decided to go back to school for a master’s degree in school psychology at Ottawa University in Kansas. She became a certified school psychologist in Arizona, where she started a private psychotherapy practice for children and families. She also earned certifications as a Floortime therapist and as a certified educator of infant massage (CEIM).
Even though she lives and works in Arizona, Clare has stayed connected to Bank Street.
“When I’m facing a challenge, I want to know what others are doing in the field and how they are resolving issues. I want to keep abreast of what’s happening in the world of education, so that’s why I stay connected with Bank Street. Recently, I returned to New York for Alumni Weekend because I need to refresh, refuel, re-engage, and rejuvenate. Bank Street has given me so much,” she said.