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Affiliation: Master’s Student

Program: MS, Early Childhood Education

Hometown: Guyana, South America

Education: Teacher’s Certificate, Cyril Potter College of Education (Georgetown, Guyana); BS, Empire State College

Background: Teacher in Guyana and at St. Monica’s School in Rochester

Career Goal: Early Childhood Specialist and Teacher
Dawn Glasgow-Cummings

 

Dawn Glasgow-Cummings

Before moving to Rochester about a decade ago, Dawn Glasgow-Cummings was in charge of a government, state-owned early childhood education program in Linden, a largely populated and well-developed bauxite mining town in the small country of Guyana, South America.

She had no long-term curriculum, only a scheme of lesson plans developed each year by a team of early childhood principals in Linden. Every Tuesday, Glasgow-Cummings, now a Warner School master’s student in the teaching and curriculum program, would meet with teachers to brainstorm activities and make materials to be used in the classroom.

Sometimes Canadian-based Guyanese experts in early childhood education would visit during the summer to lead workshops and hand out teaching supplies. Other than that, they were on their own.

Glasgow-Cummings ultimately left Guyana for socioeconomic reasons. Because her certificate was recognized in this country largely as a professional qualification at the undergraduate level, she headed back to school and earned a bachelor’s degree in educational studies in 2003.

“I still had a passion for teaching in the early childhood education field,” she explains. “I love to see those small children discover something for the first time. They light up. And I love to keep the look of awe on their faces.”

She worked with preschoolers at St. Monica Elementary School for 11 years before it closed along with more than a dozen other Catholic schools in the Greater Rochester area this year. During that time, she helped implement the ScienceStart! curriculum, developed by Professor Lucia French, which capitalizes on the natural desire children have to investigate the world around them. Glasgow-Cummings can still remember staring at such a richly detailed set of lesson plans, and how she marveled at how easy it was to teach children activities from the four curriculum modules: measurements and mapping, color and light, properties of matter, and neighborhoods and habitat.

Supported later by a grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s Early Reading First program, the school used the ScienceStart! curriculum to help promote language and literacy skills.

“It was so much easier than what we had back home,” she says.

Working with the program completely shifted her view of teaching— away from a sole reliance on planned schedules toward an appreciation for the educational value of spontaneous observations. She hopes to share that view in a new teaching position soon.

About every other year or so, Glasgow-Cummings returns home in part to help her former colleagues with their work. On one of her recent trips, upon hearing the teachers admit that they struggled with providing enough science-related activities, she rejected the notion.

“No, you’re not struggling,” she told them. “It took me a while to realize it, but you’re living science. Just think about that.”

It was raining at the time. Using the storm as inspiration, she suggested talking to the children about how dry the earth is before it rains, then taking them outside afterward to evaluate the changes.

“We have the possible right in front of us,” says Glasgow-Cummings, who hopes to return to Guyana more regularly in the future as an early education specialist. “All of it is science and we did not realize it.”

(Published August 2008)



Tags: early childhood education, teaching and curriculum