Back to Kindergarten – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
The HWS Update

Back to Kindergarten

Sometimes there is no better way to move forward then to go back to your roots and that is exactly what William Smith sophomore Tess O’Leary will be doing this summer. Way back to her roots, say right about kindergarten.

O’Leary is spending the summer working at Porter Elementary School in Syracuse, N.Y., as a youth enrichment specialist focusing on developing writing skills. In practice, this means that she spends about half of the day helping teachers and students in grades K-4 while the other half of her time is spent working with fellow college students to create lesson plans for classes.

To help children develop writing skills, O’Leary is working with students encouraging and helping each of them to write stories that will then be combined into a larger book to be published and sold locally. Additionally, O’Leary is responsible for helping to organize field trips into the community to help enhance what students are learning inside the classroom.

O’Leary began working at Porter Elementary through the Say Yes to Education program of which she is a scholarship recipient. She also has connections at Porter Elementary as an alumna. The Say Yes to Education summer program is part of a broader global initiative to “capitalize on the diversity of the Porter student body, allowing students to exhibit pride in their native culture while learning about others.”  O’Leary explains that “kids have the choice of choosing one enrichment class from choices such as writing and photography, science, music, and creative arts and either a health and wellness or a dance class. However, the overarching principle is for the students to learn more about their own communities and the communities around the world.”

While at the Colleges, O’Leary works as an AmericaReads tutor at LaFayette Elementary School in Waterloo. She believes that the experience and training she received as part of that program was crucial to her success now.

“The training I received and the structure and curriculum that I implemented with my 3rd grader will help me to think of lesson plans geared toward literacy and writing for grades k-4. Also, the connection I developed with the child I worked with really helped me see the progress that can be made with a child when they trust you,” she says.

For O’Leary this internship is largely about exploring her options and really getting some hands-on experience about what a career in teaching would be like.

“I am considering a major in public policy with a concentration in education and a Spanish minor that would allow me to converse with a wider variety of children and people,” she says. It is also valuable in terms of narrowing down the type of internship she will pursue while studying abroad in Wales this coming spring.

“I hope to take away a new level of maturity and that this experience will help me to understand what it truly means to be responsible for other people. It will expose me to what the duties of a teacher really are and it will help me to prepare for the unexpected, which will especially come in handy when I study abroad in Wales!”