Mary Beth Schaefer

Professor Models Strategy to Engage Students in Learning Process

Mary Beth Schaefer, Ed.D., Assistant Professor of Education takes an inclusionary approach to education that is consistent with St. John’s focus on social justice. “My goal is to help students learn how to design a curriculum that meets the needs of an increasingly diverse middle school population — culturally, intellectually and economically,” she said. “I want to prepare them to be able to engage every student in the learning process.”

A recognized leader in the field, Dr. Schaefer joined St. John’s in 2009, after more than 15 years of middle school teaching and administrative experience. During this time, she gained a national reputation as an innovative educator who spearheaded such progressive initiatives as an inclusionary education middle school, as well as a pioneering college and career immersion program for eighth-graders.

Dr. Schaefer was drawn to St. John’s primarily because of its dedication to helping the needy and to correcting social inequities. Her interest was further heightened after reading the job description for her position. The School of Education was looking for an education professional with middle school experience in addition to having the vision necessary to help St. John’s evolve into a middle school education leader. “It just seemed to have been written with me in mind,” she said.

Her appointment to St. John’s has turned out to be a boon for the University and Dr. Schaefer, as well as for her students.

“St. John’s has more than exceeded my expectations,” she said. “I am very privileged to have found a teaching and research institution that supports my values and my work.” She knew she made the right choice early in her career here, when she received a surprise bonus, acknowledging her pro bono service at the Queens School of Inquiry (which she helped create) and at Queens Catholic Schools, where she helped parents and students who needed to master the public school application process.

“I loved being her student,” said Elizabeth Guiterrez’12ED. “Dr. Schaefer inspired me to think outside the box — especially when it comes to coming up with new ways to teach literacy that incorporate student backgrounds and interests.”

Her outstanding talents have helped the University raise its education training and research profile. Last year, spurred by Dr. Schaefer’s expertise, St. John’s introduced its first Early Immersion College Program. “We got the financial and administrative support to enable us to bring some 50 urban eighth-graders to the Queens campus for a four-day preview of the college experience.”

She is also taking part in the effort to create a Middle School Institute for Learning — slated to become a cutting edge teaching strategy showcase — for grades 6 through 12. Dr. Schaefer looks forward to turning this vision into a reality and helping St. John’s  make a difference in the quality and effectiveness of education for adolescents.