Early Childhood Special Education/Early Childhood Leadership '17
The connections and community that Bank Street provides have made a difference.
When Shavon Frazier graduated from Bank Street in 2012 with her first degree, she had three job offers, and she chose to work as a special education teacher with the Cooke Center for Learning and Development in West Harlem. The next school year she was hired as the founding UPK teacher with FirstStepNYC in her old neighborhood of Brownsville, Brooklyn. After graduating from Bank Street with her second degree in early childhood leadership in 2017, her career path immediately gained momentum, and within four months, Shavon was hired as an adjunct lecturer at CUNY School of Professional Studies, where she teaches a course in their Child Development Associate certificate program on integrating curriculum with learning environments. Shavon has also been teaching kindergarten at PS 184-Newport in Brownsville.
We talked to Shavon about how studying at Bank Street added momentum to her professional life, and here’s what she said.
First, what was your motivation to work in the field of early childhood education?
I always knew I wanted to teach, and now my heart and passion are deeply rooted in the early childhood classroom. I believe that every child has the capability to learn and will succeed when provided with the proper tools. Families are an integral part of a child’s development and a strong bridge between home and school is imperative. I have committed my life and professional career to working in pre-K and being a lifelong learner.
Why did you choose Bank Street for graduate school?
Bank Street really caught my attention when I heard about the conference groups during fieldwork. They allowed me to meet on a regular basis with other students on similar career paths and with our adviser. Anytime I talk about my Bank Street experience, I always say, “My name is Shavon ‘Reflection’ Frazier.” What I mean by that is this: If there’s nothing else you get out of Bank Street and the conference groups, it’s the importance of being reflective and really staying aware of your own actions and decisions. For example, it’s easy to go online and find cute activities to present to children, but we also have to push ourselves to think about the “why,” right? Is it developmentally appropriate? Am I being intentional with this activity, or is it just cute? When I later became a teacher coach at my school, I put my leadership degree to use in support of three-and four-year-old teachers. With them, I enact reflective and responsive coaching while teaching others to take the time for regular reflection on their teaching practice. Reflection is so, so important.
What else about Bank Street do you value?
For me, the decision to attend Bank Street wasn’t just about affordability, it was also about access to the people and skills I needed. My second job after graduating was at a place called FirstStepNYC, which was associated with a social services organization, SCO Family of Services, which was the brain-child of Laura Ensler, who is also a Bank Street grad. Then I was approached by Sherry Cleary, who’s a colleague of Laura’s and dean of CUNY’s Early Childhood Initiatives, about becoming an adjunct professor at CUNY. The connections and community that Bank Street provides have made a difference.
What is your biggest challenge professionally?
Advocating for my students and their parents can be challenging, but it’s also so rewarding. Where I teach in Brownsville, Brooklyn, I work with children who are some of the neediest I have seen. They often get skimped on the IEP services the classroom teacher is recommending. I had one student who I was recommending for SEIT services and/or a smaller classroom setting. His mother was on board, but the IEP meeting didn’t go well because in that one-on-one moment, the child was being communicative, even though that’s not how he behaved in class with 15 other students. However, through lots of documentation and assessment data, the child was given the services he needed: a class in a smaller setting. The next school year he moved to the public school down the block where I currently work. The new school was the right setting with the right supports. We have a Martin Luther King, Jr. oratory contest every year, and just two years later, this once-struggling student memorized a speech and spoke in-front of the whole school. It felt so good to see this child improve by leaps and bounds and it reaffirmed to me how important it is to work with parents and be their advocate, too.