GSE’s Community-School Partnership Network Advances Excellence and Equity in Education: A Spotlight on New Brunswick Public Schools

Rowen Kanj was a sophomore at Rutgers pursuing an engineering degree and tutoring in his spare time when he realized that his true passion was instructing and mentoring. He quickly switched over to pursue a degree teaching mathematics. “I love breaking down misconceptions about math. Students will often think that they are bad at math, but I really believe that with the right guidance, anyone can do math,” said Kanj. “The coolest part about teaching math for me is when a student thinks of a concept in a way that they hadn’t before and spontaneously says that “Math is cool!” – I love that!”

This past year, Kanj was placed as a student teacher at the New Brunswick Middle School – the New Brunswick Public Schools (NBPS) are part of the GSE’s Community School Partnership Network (GSE-CSPN). Launched in 2017, GSE-CSPN is a network of seven urban school districts that partner with the GSE to support the education of P-12 students and advance the practice of high quality teaching and learning for pre-service teachers and for students throughout the districts. 

“The partnership is a natural fit – not just geographically as we are so closely located with the GSE in New Brunswick but also in terms of the GSE and NBPS mission alignment,” stated Dr. Marnie McKoy, the Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources at NBPS. “The GSE prepares educators to advance excellence and equity in education and here at New Brunswick Public Schools, we prepare, inspire, and empower lifelong learners.”

As the NBPS Partnership Leader, Dr. Kisha Porcher believes that the partnership is mutually beneficial – GSE students develop hands-on experience working in urban schools and the districts develop a steady pipeline of well prepared teachers to join their school upon graduation.

Dr. Porcher works with as many as 30 NBPS cooperating teachers in the district who partner with GSE student teachers in the district. “It is vital for teacher education programs to work hand in hand with P-12 school districts—you can’t have one without the other,” stated Dr. Porcher. “Academia has traditionally worked in isolation from school districts, and this partnership is critical to bridging that gap between research and practice.”

Ms. Shawn Gay was Kanj’s cooperating teacher at the New Brunswick Middle School this past year. “In Kanj, I met someone who is going to be a lifelong colleague. I enjoyed planning our lessons together and tag teaming while teaching. He gave me a new perspective on how to incorporate technology and 21st century skills into the classroom,” stated Ms. Gay.

“I learned how to provide emotional support to students from Ms. Gay so as to create a safe space to voice ideas and experiment,” said Kanj. “Beyond the classroom, Ms. Gay knew the parents and communities of her students and their home life – she was invested in their success. I found that to be very inspiring.”

“New Brunswick students participated in the Youth Participatory Action Research project this year at Rutgers, spearheaded by GSE’s Dr. Beth Rubin. The project teaches students to identify, investigate, and propose solutions to address problems in their communities which was very empowering for them,” said McKoy. “Dr. Rubin also met with our social studies and English teachers to share ideas about how to make curriculum relevant to students around issues they may be experiencing presently such as immigration while focusing on academics. This benefitted our school community tremendously.”

All of the GSE’s partner districts are also part of an Advisory Council comprised of parent, teacher, and district representatives. Porcher explained, “This partnership empowers GSE student teachers to advance excellence and equity in education, and we want to ensure that we are also working collaboratively to meet the district’s needs.”