Networking Event Brings Together St. John’s Student Teachers and Area School Representatives

April 19, 2024

The next generation of teachers from St. John’s University took their first steps toward life as professionals on April 16 when The School of Education hosted its annual Maureen A. Hartigan Forum and networking event in the D’Angelo Center Ballroom.

A combined 11 schools and school districts from New York City and Long Island chatted with St. John’s students eager to learn more about those institutions and life as full-time teachers.

More than 60 student teachers attended. Joining them were Alumni Advisory Board members, faculty, administrators, and staff from The School of Education. James D. Wolfinger, Ph.D., Dean, The School of Education, welcomed the school representatives, who met with blocks of St. John’s students in 15-minute intervals.  

“It is a great opportunity for our partners to learn more about our students and for our students to learn what it means to teach in area schools,” Dean Wolfinger explained. “We want to be strong partners for the schools that have been our best supporters.”      

The School of Education has hosted the Hartigan Forum annually since 1988. It was held virtually during the COVID-19 pandemic. The event honors Maureen A. Hartigan ’55Ed, a former president of The School of Education Alumni Association. It enables St. John’s student teachers to network with school administrators and prepare for future job interviews.

Public and private schools were represented. Administrators came from nearby schools such as St. Francis Preparatory School in Fresh Meadows, NY, and as far away as Sachem Central and Three Village Central school districts in Suffolk County, NY.

“We want to find the best, and this is an opportunity for us to get a sense of who these students are,” St. Francis Prep Assistant Principal Christopher Mendolia said. “We’ve always had a great relationship with St. John’s.”

Rather than a series of formal job interviews, the Hartigan Forum is more of an introductory event for student teachers and potential employers. Popular topics of conversation included school and district locations, classroom size, mission, and, of course, position qualifications.

“It gives us a perspective on what the schools are looking for,” said Carmela Abbatiello, who is pursuing a master’s degree in Adolescent Education and Special Education. Carmela is also a student teacher in the South Huntington Union Free School District in Suffolk County, NY. “This prepares us well for when we go on formal job interviews,” she said.

“It’s a great opportunity to see what is out there,” added Jacqueline Nobile, who will complete her five-year master’s program in Adolescent Education and Literacy in the fall. A student teacher at Middle Village Preparatory Charter School in Queens, Jacqueline said most of the school representatives wanted to see a “teaching personality” in those they chatted with.

“The principals said it is important to be a ‘people person,’” Jacqueline said. “For the time being, they are more interested in that than what is on our résumés.”

The event was highlighted by awarding $2,500 scholarships to sisters Crystal Lozada and Isabel Lozada of Queens Village, NY. The sisters are 11 months apart, but took different paths to The School of Education.

“I was working part time in a day-care center as a first-year student at St. John’s when I realized I wanted to be a teacher,” Crystal, a junior, recalled. “I always loved working with kids and want to do whatever I can as a teacher to help kids.”

“I started as an Accounting student, because I have always loved math,” Isabel, a sophomore, added. “Eventually, I discovered that was not my passion. That made me think about what I want to do with my life. I kept coming back to teaching.”

School representatives said they headed home satisfied with the quality of St. John’s student teachers.

“I was impressed with how well-prepared they were,” said Francis De Castro, Assistant Principal of Cardinal Hayes High School in the Bronx, NY. “We were looking for much of what we saw today—how the students expressed themselves, asking the important questions, and how we think they will manage the classroom.”