SOE graduates light up Wilmington’s Edison School
When Elizabeth Yates, assistant principal at Thomas A. Edison Charter School, was asked why her school had hired five University of Delaware alumni this year, she provided this enthusiastic response, “UD grads are always some of our top teachers. They truly make a difference in the lives of our students. We look forward to welcoming our newest group of UD alumni.”
Thomas Edison Charter is a K-8 school in inner-city Wilmington, Delaware, that serves 750 students from some of the most underserved communities in New Castle County. About 90 percent of the students are African American and live at or below the poverty level.
New teachers Daniella Di Matteo, Michele Baldini and Emily Rickert graduated UD in 2016, while Kelley Barba and Nicole Chinn graduated in 2015. The school has six more alumni on staff, besides the assistant principal, who graduated from UD in 1996.
“We also host UD practicum students during the year and have been very pleased with their performance and training,” said Yates. “UD grads fit in very well.”
The new teachers were all enthusiastic about becoming members of the team at Edison. “The administrators were so very warm and welcoming. I could feel the passion the faculty had in delivering the best to each child,” said Di Matteo. “I knew I’d find strong support as a first-year teacher.”
Building their skill sets
Di Matteo, Baldini, Barba and Chinn were graduates of the elementary teacher education program at UD, while Rickert received a degree in music education.
Because of the training they received at UD, the new teachers said they entered their classrooms confident in their abilities. The rigorous courses, challenging yet rewarding student teaching placements, and well-qualified professors positioned them to succeed.
“I was able to build relationships with professors, peers, co-op teachers and bosses who nourished my strengths and helped me navigate my weaknesses,” said Rickert, Edison’s new music teacher. “My years at UD taught me how to set a goal and achieve it.”
Di Matteo was hired as a third grade teacher. “Sitting in night classes, learning the details of special education assessments and then administering them to students in the classroom was a valuable hands-on experience,” she said.
Students also learned critical time management skills at UD.
“As a music major, I spent my days sharpening my skills as a musician, taking core classes that taught me how to teach, and serving a leadership role in Intervarsity Christian Fellowship,” said Rickert. “As you can imagine, life was often hectic, however, being so involved taught me how to manage my time and prioritize my schedule.”
Being a teacher at a high-needs school provides challenges, but these educators aren’t intimidated.
Baldini, a sixth grade math teacher, said, “Many students in the school come from rough conditions, so I will remain focused on making a difference.”
She wants to make sure that once a child steps into the school building, he or she feels safe. She wants to offer her best so that the students attend not only high school but college, as well.
Di Matteo’s goals include developing relationships with the families, knowing the ins and outs of the curriculum, and helping out at faculty meetings/school events. She also wants to set goals for each of her students, and help them meet those expectations by the end of the year.
Chinn, teaching first grade has also set clear aims and goals. “Working in an urban school requires an extreme amount of care and love for each child, while still focusing on teaching and holding high expectations,” she said. “I would not let the toughness of the location and sadness of select student scenarios get the best of me. Many UD professors have stressed the importance of showing empathy over sympathy, which will be my major goal this year.”
Rickert summed up her college experience, saying, “I often say I felt as though I lived four lifetimes in the four years I spent at UD. But getting my job at Edison is the result of that. I know the work I will do there will reflect on the expectations of greatness that UD instilled in me.”
Article by Harpreet Kaur
Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Yates