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Holmes' Partnership with Buffalo State Brings in Future Educators

student teachers talk to kids in classroom

A unique partnership is allowing Holmes Elementary to further educate its students, improve literacy in the classroom, and develop relationships with future educators.

For three school years, Holmes and Buffalo State University have engaged in a Professional Development Schools (PDS) partnership. It’s an idea that started with teaching and learning literacy in the classroom and has evolved into different layers of teamwork and collaboration between the two schools. Their shared vision is to “work together to provide evidence-based best practices in literacy instruction to ensure the growth of all learners into literate, knowledgeable, and humane human beings”.

“It’s a win-win partnership because the teaching candidates are not just on school grounds, they’re in our classrooms,” Holmes principal Matt Raines said. “Yes, they’re learning, but it’s also an extra set of hands that can help with academic support and teach the foundations of literacy.”

“This ongoing partnership is an invaluable part of our preparation for the next generation of passionate, knowledgeable, and skillful educators,” said Andrew Hashey, Ph.D., an associate professor in Buffalo State’s Exceptional Education Department. “When we see Buffalo State candidates making a positive impact in their classroom placements (and well before their student teaching experience), that's the ultimate indicator of success.”

The two schools started collaborating in early 2020 and since then, Holmes has welcomed several students every semester to observe, learn, and teach. This semester, 11 future educators and literacy mentors are getting hands-on experience in one of several Gr. 1-4 classrooms.

“I wish I had an opportunity like this because you don’t really become a good teacher until you go through a year or two of classroom experience,” Raines said. “I think our teachers embrace it and they understand that these kids are going to be them five to seven years down the road. They’re having authentic conversations about teaching and the application of literacy, and it’s exciting.”

students listen to speaker at planetarium

As the partnership continues to evolve each semester, Holmes is seeing their students benefit even more through on-site field trips thanks to grant funding. In the Fall, several students were able to tour Buffalo State’s campus, visit the planetarium, see what a college classroom looks like, and connect literacy with science elements.

“Our students learned that college can be fun and Buffalo State is a school where they can pursue several avenues and increase their growth mindset,” said Holmes teacher Tracy Caruana. “When you have those applicable experiences, it’s more meaningful and it gives them a little taste of what could be in their future. When we come back from those field trips, our students talk about it for a long time.”

“It’s incredible,” Raines added. “We’ve got 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders walking around big-eyed saying things like I can’t wait to go here. I want to go to college when I get older.”

group of students pose outside of Buffalo State University

At the end of the semester, Raines makes sure to meet with every teaching candidate to go over their experience and reiterate how much their presence means to the Holmes community. He says it’s a way to positively reinforce the partnership and keep future conversations open.

“We’re building connections and building communities with future educators,” Raines said. “We want them to have a great experience and when they’re here, we show them why they should apply to Ken-Ton.”