New York State regent Ouderkirk of Morristown addresses Educational Design Conference in Canton
Monday, July 24, 2017 - 11:47 am

CANTON -- New York State Regent Beverly Ouderkirk addressed teachers from seven North Country school districts to help launch a Student Poverty/Trauma Initiative this past week at the 25th Annual constructivist Educational Design Conference at St. Lawrence University.

Ouderkirk told 63 participants that educators have talked about poverty since she was a kindergarten teacher in the 1960s, but this is the first time she feels schools are really doing something to address the issue.

The regent, who resides in Morristown, added that she believes policies are changing for the better on the state level with a new commissioner of education and several recently appointed Board of Regents members.

Ouderkirk concluded by telling the teachers that “Seeing all the good work you are doing for students is important to me.”

New York State Assemblyman Billy Jones, D-Chateaugay, visited the event, addressed the group. and then talked with individual teachers. Jones told them “I think this is a great initiative because we have a large poverty problem in our area. I think it’s important we help students engage” and he added, “one of the problems is students who don’t feel like they are a part of things and do not feel welcome.”

One teacher summed up the feelings of many when she said “These two days have been an eye-opening experience. I didn’t realize how much a child’s mental and physical health could be affected by poverty. Listening to the experiences of April and her mother, two people raised in poverty who have broken out of the cycle, and stories shared by others, will inspire me to reach out more to students who are being raised in poverty.”

The Student Poverty/Trauma Initiative is a collaborative process designed by the Institute for Learning Centered Education and co-sponsored with the three BOCES that include Franklin, Jefferson and St. Lawrence Counties among the regions they represent. The initiative was piloted in Copenhagen, Colton-Pierrepont and Tupper Lake beginning last year and has now expanded to include the seven districts that participated a week ago which include Chateaugay, Gouverneur, Lake Placid, Massena, Malone, Norwood-Norfolk and Ogdensburg. These districts are designing plans to engage and motivate students to learn despite the hardships of poverty or trauma.

Teachers in Fairport, New York will begin this poverty initiative next week and three more North Country schools will launch their work in late summer or early fall.