Ulster BOCES Teaching Assistants Supported in their Journeys to Become Licensed Teachers

Ulster BOCES Teaching Assistants Supported in their Journeys to Become Licensed Teachers

Marcayla Eckert, Mayra Lopez, and Abigail Ressa, teaching assistants at the Ulster BOCES Center for Innovative Teaching & Learning, will soon be gaining the experience and education they need to become licensed teachers, thanks to a New York State initiative that aims to address the teaching shortage. The trio, along with three other teaching assistants currently working in Ulster County school districts, will be benefiting from a $269,595 grant that Ulster BOCES received from the New York State Department of Labor.

The grant will allow the teaching assistants to pursue a master’s degree in education from Empire State College while they are receiving mentoring from teachers in their respective school districts. The grant will also cover tuition, books, technology fees, and stipends for living expenses, including childcare if needed. Upon completion of the program, participants will have opportunities to fill teaching vacancies in Ulster County school districts.

Abigail Ressa, of Lake Katrine, has 11 years of experience and a deep commitment to education, expressed her gratitude, stating, "This grant will forever change the course of my life. This has been a dream of mine for so long. For it to come to fruition, let alone with my school that I love so much, is a gift. I am so unbelievably grateful for this opportunity."

Marcayla Eckert, who resides in Kingston, echoed the sentiment, saying, "I'm very grateful for this opportunity that Ulster BOCES has given me. I am beyond excited to further my education while still being able to continue doing what I love within the classroom. I'm so thrilled to see where this educational journey leads me."

Mayra Lopez, of Montgomery, NY, has been a teaching assistant for two years but only started with Ulster BOCES last fall. She has decided to stay with BOCES because of the opportunities it has created for her. "I started working for BOCES last summer, and I love it. This opportunity is one of the many reasons I am already so excited to continue in the fall," she said.

Kerri Ann Sheehy, President of the Ulster BOCES Teachers’ Organization, emphasized the importance of addressing the teacher shortage. "Ulster County is not immune to this problem,” she said. “We know that locally, fewer students are choosing to go into the profession, and as a society, we need to consider new ways to inspire young people to consider teaching."

Ulster BOCES Grant Coordinator Rebecca Anderson highlighted the program's aim of filling positions in high-need areas such as math, science, and special education. Candidates will gain teaching experience while being mentored, a strategy that has been proven to increase retention rates.

Jeralyn Perretta, President of the Ulster BOCES Teaching Assistants & Aides; Organization, stressed the key role mentors play in creating effective educators. "Teachers are the core component of our success, and to have one of our amazing teachers mentor the participant is invaluable," she said.

Dr. Jonah Schenker, Ulster BOCES District Superintendent, sees the program as an opportunity for collective action. "We have funding for nine seats, and it will be an inclusive process where districts and Ulster BOCES will come together to support candidates and job placement upon completion," he said.

Other grant recipients include Diana Echols, a first-year teaching assistant at the Ellenville Central School District, who grew up in Ellenville and finds joy in giving back. “I’m looking forward to giving back to my community, and I’m excited to start this journey to give me the opportunity to do so,” she said. Echols has also worked as a substitute teacher in Ellenville. Two teaching assistants, Michelle Neville, and Katlyn Harder, from the Rondout Valley Central School District are also
planning to participate in the program.

For more information about teacher grants and opportunities, please contact Ulster BOCES at ulsterboces.org/careers.


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