Take a Look at Teaching clubs blossom across New York


rom an October Take a Look at Teaching convening in Nassau County to a December school visit in Lockport north of Buffalo, it’s easy to come away with the same message: students are interested in teaching.

More than 150 students from several Long Island schools gathered at Long Island University to hear from New York State Teachers of the Year, Board of Regents Chancellor Lester Young and NYSUT Executive Vice President Jaime Ciffone. The event was organized by 2021 New York State Teacher of the Year Jen Wolfe, who wanted to bring TALAT clubs and classes from around Long Island together to introduce students to several aspects of the teaching profession, including how to build a classroom community, teaching wellness and the basics of the job.

Bar graph showing percentage of students of color and teachers of color in New York
“The Take a Look at Teaching program has tapped into something that was not tapped into before,” said Brentwood High School English teacher, Natalia O’Brien. “I’m teaching a class on exploring teaching that really does show them that the pathway is possible and successful. I think Take a Look at Teaching has made that possible.”

As the teaching shortage grips New York and the rest of the nation, getting students interested as soon as possible is vital to the future of the profession. TALAT is a union-led initiative that seeks to develop a robust, diverse educator pipeline in New York.

“In the past four or five years, there’s been this resurgence of ‘we need teachers,’” said Scott Reddinger, president of the Lockport Education Association. “Not only do we need teachers, but we need teachers who look like, sound like, talk like, have the same life experiences and backgrounds as the kids who are in school today.”

Being exposed to diverse voices and cultures is important to Desiree Romero, one of the students who attended the Long Island TALAT convening. She is looking to become a teacher in either English or social studies and work with special education students.

“It’s one of those things that when you see a teacher who shares the same skin color as you, it instills that strength of, ‘I can do this. I can go beyond,’” said Romero, who is indigenous.

NYSUT President Melinda Person with students in Lockport TALAT club
NYSUT President Melinda Person visits with Lockport TALAT club members after a discussion on the collective voice.
The clubs that attended the Long Island event and the TALAT club in Lockport are growing year by year. Getting students interested in the teaching profession early is vital, says NYSUT President Melinda Person.

“Kids today are choosing other career pathways. Not as many people are going to college to become teachers and this is a real cause for concern. That’s why we created this program.”

NYSUT’s Take a Look at Teaching/Grow Your Own project is funded by a three-year grant from the National Education Association’s Great Public Schools Fund. Locals have used grant funds to establish TALAT clubs and offer introduction to education courses and other experiences that encourage K-12 students to want to become teachers. More than 50 clubs are currently operating across New York. For more info, visit NYSUT’s TALAT website at TakeaLookatTeaching.org.

NYSUT Executive Vice President Jaime Ciffone speaking at panel with Board of Regents Member Roger Tilles and Long Island University School of Education Dean Laura Seinfeld


“Take a Look at Teaching allows potential future educators to get a glimpse into this wonderful profession and to foster the growth and development of our next generation of teachers,” says NYSUT Executive Vice President Jaime Ciffone (center), as part of a panel discussion that included Board of Regents Member Roger Tilles, left, and Long Island University School of Education Dean Laura Seinfeld.