Childhood General Education '08
To know people, to have connections—This is another Bank Street value—how we build relationships, like working together on the residency program. I think it’s going to prove to be a really good idea, and we’re curious about the ways that it’s going to roll out and have a great impact on both communities.
Beginning in Summer 2021, the Graduate School of Education is enrolling its first cohort of students for its new two-year Residency in Childhood General and Special Education Program, based in Brooklyn’s District 13.
In the district, Deputy Superintendent and Bank Street alumna Meghan Dunn has been a key partner in the creation and launch of this new program, which is aimed at preparing more high-quality, culturally responsive educators for her district, which spans a large part of Brooklyn’s underserved student population.
Meghan is excited to introduce the incoming cohort of residents to the culturally responsive anti-racist teaching practices that are unfolding across her district.
“As a Bank Street alumna, I’m grateful to be positioned on the front end of this collaboration to develop and bring high-quality teacher talent into our district. Bank Street takes a reciprocal approach to their work, and this residency is an example of that. What we are bringing to Bank Street is a collaboration that will allow graduate students to get first-hand experience with the culturally responsive teaching practices our faculty are being trained in. They will also experience how a district is actively working to be anti-racist. Graduate students will experience this as we continue our work to integrate District 13 schools. For us all, the program promises to strengthen the learning experiences of children and families in District 13, as well as for graduate students at Bank Street.”
Meghan’s background has motivated her work establishing Brooklyn’s District 13 as an anti-racist district. After graduating from George Washington University, she accepted a teaching position through Teach for America at PS 335 in Brooklyn, where she stayed for seven years. At that time, she also began pursuing her MSEd in Childhood Education at Bank Street. After three years of teaching first grade at PS 335, Meghan pressed the administration for the opportunity to “loop” with her class, which enables students to stay with the same teacher for more than one school year. She describes looping as a way of providing stable relationships for students and supporting those who struggle academically, socially, or who come from traumatic situations. Her looping idea was approved—and it worked.
“Bank Street teaches us to be curious, and I was interested in seeing what happens next,” she said. “It was also an opportunity for me to really push myself.” She recalls that the students she looped with “felt safe and valued, and we were able to really focus on deeper content and learning because a lot of that pre-work had been done.”
In 2012, Meghan became the founding principal of PS 446 in Brownsville, Brooklyn, where she worked to address the many challenging issues of an underserved community. “Many students at P.S. 446 come to school having experienced trauma and crisis,” she said. “Crisis looks differently for each student and it’s our responsibility to meet students and families where they are and provide them with what they need to succeed.”
As principal, Meghan worked hard to build relationships not only with the children, but also with their families, giving individualized attention to every child and parent. At P.S. 446, looping is now the norm, with students staying with the same teacher over the course of numerous years and teachers building strong relationships with families.
Now, as a Deputy Superintendent, Meghan is hard at work helping to establish Brooklyn’s District 13 as an anti-racist district.
“Our focus on being an anti-racist district requires that we really think about these questions: What does equity mean for all students, all 21,000 of them across District 13? How can we create truly integrated spaces where these relationships exist and all families have a sense of belonging? We have an opportunity not just to make policy changes that change the rules of how things happen, but rather to think about how we can change both hearts and minds.”
Under her leadership, monthly anti-racist town halls—grounded in the five frameworks of integration from Integrate NYC and aligned to the Liberatory Consciousness Framework from Dr. Barbara J. Love—have built an integrated space for parents and the community to express their views and become part of the district’s work.
Another part of her culturally responsive work includes the partnership with the Bank Street community for the new teacher residency program. In this unique residency program, first-year students will participate in a full-time paid residency in a District 13 school. In the second year, students will be eligible to be hired as a full-time teacher of record. Additionally, all cohort members receive a scholarship along with a $20,000 stipend.
“It all starts with our teachers—and we know that hiring teachers is a challenge for the district,” Meghan said. “The teacher residency program is a wonderful opportunity to build a sustainable pipeline so we’re able to get the right teachers into our schools, so we can live our values of being an anti-racist district, and focus on integrating our schools.”
Grounded in the Bank Street approach to teaching and learning, which recognizes that individuals learn best when they are actively engaged with materials, ideas, and people; and combined with District 13’s anti-racist principles, the program enables students to be completely immersed in a classroom for a full year to deeply develop teaching skills and techniques to better meet the diverse needs of all students.
Meghan reflects, “I’ve thought a lot about how Bank Street taught me to be curious and to think through ideas. When I think about my years teaching, I was constantly curious about how things were working. When I became a principal, I had the great honor of being able to found my own school, based on the principle of looping and to maintain connections with students and families. To know people, to have connections—This is another Bank Street value—how we build relationships, like working together on the residency program. I think it’s going to prove to be a really good idea, and we’re curious about the ways that it’s going to roll out and have a great impact on both communities.”