The Scarsdale Teachers Institute: History and Legacy
By Judith Schwartz
This document, commissioned by the Scarsdale Teachers Institute Policy Board, commemorates the 35th anniversary of the STI. Its purpose is to preserve the stories of the founding and the evolution of the STI. The history demonstrates the best practices of teacher and institutional professional development.
From its earliest days the STI has been regarded as a staff development model, giving teachers voice and authority to determine their own professional needs, while at the same time meeting district and state goals. This collaboration of teachers, administrators, and community has enriched the district, helped shape the careers of teachers and contributed to the excellence of the Scarsdale and Edgemont school districts.
Teachers come into teaching with limited experience in the classroom. They do most of their learning on the job, usually with little help and assistance. Given the structures of most schools, teachers often work in isolation, with little feedback on their performance and little opportunity to reflect upon and improve their practice. They have little time to collaborate with their colleagues. In addition, too many teachers do not see, or cannot find, avenues for growth that reward their experience and dedication, unless they leave the classroom. The career paths are limited, and the rewards few. This is not a very substantive agenda for success.
This dismal picture is mitigated by the few opportunities that do exist and have developed as a result of teacher initiative and organizational support. The primary program that reflects these opportunities is the New York State Teacher Center program, now in its 20th year.
This remarkable program had humble beginnings, and the story of the Scarsdale Teachers Institute is one of the keys to New York State’s teacher center program. The vision, imagination, foresight and organizational understanding of the founders of the STI paved the way for the growth of the statewide program.
To date, 127 Teacher Centers provide the majority of the professional growth opportunities for about 90% of the teachers of New York State.
The purpose of this report is to document the history of the STI so that educators, parents, the professional community and the public at large can learn and understand more about the achievements of the STI and ensure its future growth.