Junior adolescence education and English dual major Emilio Del Valle is a member of the School of Education's Teacher Opportunity Corps program who aims for a career teaching in an urban setting.
Q. Where is your home?
A. I'm from Harlem in uptown Manhattan. I went to high school in Bronx -- Riverdale. The campus was called JFK, John F. Kennedy, but there were six to eight schools broken up. The school I attended was called the Marble Hill School for International Studies. It was a school where there were a lot of different ethnicities and backgrounds and cultures.
Q. How did you wind up in a small Upstate city for college?
A. There's a story behind that. I think I was in my freshman year of high school. All of the SUNY schools had some kind of fair, and they were all tabling and showing off their schools. I remember walking into the big arena and there were long lines at SUNY Albany and University at Buffalo. I remember saying, "I don’t want to wait in any long lines. I'm going to look at the other schools SUNY has to offer." I remember looking at SUNY Oswego's table, and it was such a diverse group. I think four people were there and each of the people looked completely different. There was a poster and it looked like such a beautiful campus. I went straight to that table, and I literally stayed for about an hour, asking so many questions and hearing about the diversity and how the school looks and all the organizations they have. I just completely fell in love -- and I wasn't going to college for another four years!
Q. What did you decide to major in when you got here?
A. I declared psychology. The reason is I've always wanted to work with children. I wanted to do social work or counseling or teaching -- I was always going back and forth. My second semester freshman year, I declared an adolescence education major and a second major in my content area, English. I also have a minor in human development, so I've kind of got the best of both worlds.
Q. What do you think of your fellow SUNY Oswego students?
A. The campus is really diverse. I see the students here are so active and there are just so many organizations and so many multicultural clubs. There are so many things to do on campus. And I just think all the students are like sponges, just grabbing up all the knowledge and all the chances they have here.
Q. What do you think of faculty members you've encountered?
A. I feel like the professors here are so attached to their students and very caring. A lot of them partake in a lot of activities on campus. I know a lot of professors and staff who are advisers -- it's nice to see them at LSU (Latino Student Union) or BSU (Black Student Union) or ONE campaign events, showing encouragement. They're so flexible here and so open with their office hours. They want to know who you are as a person. It's just amazing; it's not what I expected when I came here. It's really nice.
Q. How did the college's Teacher Opportunity Corps come to your attention?
A. I believe I was a freshman when I first heard about it from someone who wasn't even an education major. She told me there was this program that was such an amazing opportunity for education majors. It just resonated with me. I started going to meetings at the end of my freshman year and (Field Placement Director Nichole) Ms. Brown told me all about the program. I became an official intern my sophomore year.
Q. What do Teacher Opportunity Corps interns do?
A. It's a paid internship. We have meetings and go over certification requirements. It's really big on supporting each other. For the first hour, we do something called check-in. We go over everything that's going on in our personal lives. I don't know what other people think in other majors, but there's a lot that comes with being an education major, with all the exams you have to take, your (coursework and placement) blocks, your student teaching and making sure you have your hours done and you're keeping up with your content major, like English or science. We also reach out to other future interns and educate them on the program. We watch a lot of education videos about conferences and changes going on in the education field. We also give presentations to each other about different things we've learned, such as charter schools or urban education. We return from our (school) placements and give each other feedback and tell each other what worked and what didn't work. Ms. Brown also does a lot of support with financial aid for certifications -- they’re pretty expensive. Before I came into the program, I didn't know about all the no-credit trainings and all the exams we had to do. She’s very knowledgeable about things we don’t necessarily learn about in our classes.
Q. Where have you been placed so far?
A. My first was in Henninger High School in Syracuse last semester, and right now I'm at P.V. Moore High School in Central Square -- two completely different schools. Henninger was "majority minority," a lot of poverty. P.V Moore is in the 90s percent Caucasian. The schools, the teaching methods were completely different, and I feel like the Field Placement Office does that on purpose. You're going to do four placements before you graduate. I feel like it's better for you to go to different types of schools and see for yourself, and by the time you graduate, you have an idea where you want to teach and how you want to teach and who you want to teach.
Q. What has been a major takeaway for you from these placements?
A. It just reminds me of when I was a student, seeing these different students who are where I was not too long ago. Having my internships and doing my practicums teaches me that everyone is different, everyone comes from different backgrounds and everyone has different challenges and struggles. It's a good skill to know how to differentiate and to not to have just one set of teaching methods or one set of expectations, to be very fluid and have an open mind with each student and try get to know each student on more than just an academic level. Each one, even though they're young, has so many influences outside school in their personal lives that impact their studies. Since I'm not actually teaching yet and I get to be on the sideline and talk to these students, I feel that this is something that's a good practice now. It's given me a more in-depth look at what's really going on in the schools.
Q. What's ahead for you?
A. I definitely want to teach in an urban school and give back to students who really need that support and really do have struggles and challenges. I know it might not be easier and I know I might be asking for something that's more difficult, but I just feel like I'm at the place where I really care and I want the challenge and I want to deal with the students who may not be the best students.
Q. What are your other campus interests?
A. I'm currently secretary of the ONE campaign. We use our voice to educate other people about poverty and disease -- for the most part we've been focusing on different countries in Africa, just to make everyone knowledgeable. I've also done Mentor-Scholar in Oswego Middle School, even before I started my education classes. I've worked in Penfield Library circulation services since my first semester freshman year -- a lot of helping people find research sources, checking in and out materials, answering students' questions.
Q. What do you like to do in your down time?
A. I like to go bike riding. I like to read young adult novels or dystopian novels such as "Hunger Games" or "Divergent." That's about it -- my schedule has been really packed. Back home, I just got accepted to a summer internship for Uncommon Schools. I'll be teaching, on my own, kids who need extra enrichment. I'll get a stipend and stay at NJIT, a technology school in Newark, New Jersey. I also love to travel. My senior year of high school, I participated in a student exchange program to China. It was just really exciting. I am saving up and hope to study abroad my last semester.
Q. What can you tell us about your family?
A. I live at home in Harlem with my mother and my little brother. My parents divorced when I was 4. I have a little sister from my dad's side. I'm half African American from my mother's side and half Puerto Rican from my father's side. My dad took me to Puerto Rico for my 16th birthday. Unfortunately, I do not speak Spanish, but it was a great experience -- it was nice to go see my culture and my family. My mom was very big on independence and my learning stuff on my own. She taught me a lot about always being sure you're on top of your academics. We have a really close relationship. Since I was in her stomach, her dream was always for me to go to college. She got her bachelor's in business administration, and she told me she wants me to go further and at least get a master's degree.