Sandy Gonzalez MS Ed
New York, NY



E-mail Denisha


What prompted you to pursue a graduate degree?

I initially went to Sarah Lawrence for undergrad and my advisor recommended that I look into the Art of Teaching program. In preparing for that I took a Child and Adolescent Development course, which required fieldwork at Sarah Lawrence’s Early Childhood Center—a huge part of the Art of Teaching program. I worked there for a year and had such a great experience, and while talking to students who were already in the program at the time, it seemed like it was something I wanted to do.

How did graduate school fit into your life at the time?

The Art of Teaching program has a option for undergrads to do a five-year program where you can start taking graduate courses your senior year and then after one more year, you earn your master's in education. I entered the program during my undergraduate studies. For the first year I lived on campus and for my second year I commuted from Manhattan.

Why did you choose Sarah Lawrence College for your graduate studies?

I chose Sarah Lawrence for my graduate studies because it seemed like a nice way to transition from my undergraduate studies. I had heard only great things about the program from people who were in the program and from my advisor. I liked that I would be a certified teacher in New York State for early childhood and childhood education by the time I graduated after my fifth year. I liked that I would have options to teach children as young as preschoolers and as old as sixth graders, and I knew I wanted to stay in New York. Everything it offered made sense for what I wanted.

What role did the Sarah Lawrence faculty play in your time here?

The faculty are a huge part of what makes this program great. The professors make themselves available to you and guide you through the program. Throughout my experience in the program our professors were very approachable and took all of our concerns into consideration.

What experience as an Art of Teaching student had the greatest impact on you?

It is difficult to choose one single experience that had the greatest impact because there are so many to choose from. There were a bunch of workshops that were pretty great; the program seeks opportunities for students to network and learn outside of the classroom. The summer courses were really intense and powerful, and the fieldwork that we do is so important and valuable in teaching. If I had to choose one experience, it would have to be my final oral presentation. After the two years, you compile all the work you’ve done and pull out the experiences that shed a light on what you value most as a teacher and present it to your classmates and your professors as your final project. This was where I could really reflect and think about my goals for myself as a teacher. Pulling all of that together and presenting it was a challenge but it was definitely a powerful reflective experience.

How did your coursework prepare you for your fieldwork and student teaching, and how did that experience prepare you to enter the profession?

The coursework was reflective of our fieldwork. We read resources that drew on teachers’ experiences in their classrooms while we shared our own. We got to hear about each other’s classrooms and talk about things going on in our classrooms and reflect on the work we’re doing in the field while processing it in our Boulder classroom.

Where did you do your fieldwork and student teaching?

I was placed at the Early Childhood Center with 3s and 4s, at Central Park East One in a K/1/2 classroom, and the Earth School in a 4th/5th grade classroom. The Art of Teaching program gears its program to get the grad students into the classroom and gain that first-hand experience. That prepared me the most for getting a feel for the routines set in place in schools, working with the children, and practicing my work as a teacher before officially starting in my own classroom. The Early Childhood Center’s role in my preparation was really getting a hold on the language they use with children, their philosophy, and their process of meeting the children’s’ needs through observation in a way that respects and honors the child, their families, and the values they have as a preschool.

What is life like as a graduate student at Sarah Lawrence?

My first year of graduate school, I was living on campus and since I was there for undergrad I had relationships already set in place. During the second year I commuted from Manhattan and I built on the relationships I had with the other students in my year in the program.

What impact did the proximity of New York City have on your experience?

It was great. The proximity of New York City was exactly what I wanted; I grew up in Manhattan so it was all very familiar to me. liked being able to commute from home and being able to do my fieldwork at public schools in Manhattan.

What is the strongest attribute of Sarah Lawrence's Art of Teaching program?

Again, it’s difficult to choose one but I think it would be its relationship with the Early Childhood Center. It was a huge resource for most of our courses, and it builds a solid foundation to what education and learning can be for young children. It becomes a jumping off point for entering other schools and fieldwork placements.

What advice can you offer to prospective graduate students?

I would say be prepared to set aside some serious time and energy to this program; whether you are working already or coming from undergrad, the program is what you make of it. I think I had such a great experience because it was everything that I was focusing on at the time so I made space to attend workshops offered outside of classroom time and work in my student teaching placements. I would also say to be in communication with your professors. Because it is such a small program, your professors are really going to help you in any way they can as long as you are transparent about what your needs are.

What are you up to now?

I am currently an assistant teacher at the Greene Hill School in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, in their 4s (pre-k) classroom. Greene Hill is a young school, so I am learning about what a growing school looks like. Right now the school is Pre-K through seventh grade and they are building on one more year to go up to eighth grade. I am learning about this new community in Brooklyn, how a growing school functions, and all the components that it requires.