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New SUNY Potsdam Coffeehouse Series Strengthens Voices of Teacher Education Students

March 5, 2020

Coffeehouse Series Gives Forum for SUNY Potsdam Elementary Education Students


SUNY Potsdam’s Sheard Literacy Center is an amazing space for teacher education students to work one-on-one with children from local schools. Pictured is Katie Barnes '23, who is pursuing her bachelor's degree in childhood/early childhood education.

SUNY Potsdam undergraduates in elementary education are finding a stronger voice in their own learning, through a new coffeehouse series designed to gather feedback, build community and open lines of communication with faculty.

Launched last fall, the initiative builds a place for the future educators to meet and comfortably discuss academic issues while increasing leadership skills and engagement. In just a few months, students have begun working to create a mentoring program and build a supply closet where they can share and reuse certain study materials instead of buying them new.

They are also gaining more time in the field, to work on the skills they need to educate the minds of tomorrow. Assistant Professor Dr. Sarah Solley and Visiting Instructor Sharlee Thomas, who is also the student teaching supervisor with the Department of Elementary Education, both helped to spearhead the series of meetings. The pair plans to step back and put the initiative more fully into student hands as it gains momentum.

“We wanted to have the opportunity for students to be part of the improvement of the program for undergraduate education; we wanted them to have a voice,” said Thomas. “We wanted to create a place where they can come and talk to each other, have a voice in what they are struggling with, and a voice in the creation of the program.”

The student coffeehouse series will continue to meet through the spring. All meetings are held in Satterlee Hall Room 219. Upcoming meetings include:

  • Friday, March 6, from 2 to 4 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 17, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, March 31, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Students suggested that they could better put education theory into practice with full days instead of half days, working with mentoring teachers in North Country schools for their Block One and Block Two practicum placements.

“Currently, our Block One and Block Two students spend every Tuesday and Thursday in the field for three hours each day,” said Solley. “During our fall coffeehouse series, students expressed that they would find full days in the field much more beneficial. Therefore, with the guidance and vision of Department Chair Julie Reagan, the three of us have partnered with three area school districts to pilot a full day residency model with our Block One students this fall. Through this model, we will be able to offer two full days in the field through our district partnerships.”

Strengthening student voices in academic issues and opening lines of communication with faculty are known to help with student success and retention. Close to 30 students showed up for a February coffeehouse.

“We really noticed how much students wanted to have the opportunity to sit and talk and express their feelings on what they are learning,” Thomas said.

The series is funded by a $1,000 James Walter and Ruth Johnson Scott Faculty Research Grant. Ongoing and forming student-created committees cover issues ranging from the coffeehouse logo design to mentoring, community involvement and volunteering.

The School of Education and Professional Studies at SUNY Potsdam has been preparing educators for more than 200 years. To learn more, visit

About SUNY Potsdam:

Founded in 1816, The State University of New York at Potsdam is one of America’s first 50 colleges—and the oldest institution within SUNY. Now in its third century, SUNY Potsdam is distinguished by a legacy of pioneering programs and educational excellence. The College currently enrolls approximately 3,600 undergraduate and graduate students. Home to the world-renowned Crane School of Music, SUNY Potsdam is known for its challenging liberal arts and sciences core, distinction in teacher training and culture of creativity. To learn more, visit

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