Albertus has had a tradition of preparing its liberal arts undergraduates for teaching careers from its founding in 1925 by the Dominican Sisters of Peace (then known as Dominican Sisters of St. Mary of the Springs). For various and good reasons this tradition was interrupted for about twelve years until 2003 when, as a newly appointed director of the Education Programs Department, I was charged with leading the process for gaining approval of the CT Department of Education for a program in teacher preparation. The first thing I did in my new position was draft a Conceptual Framework, a document that continues to guide us in maintaining and updating existing approved programs and in proposing new programs, such as the early childhood teacher preparation program at the undergraduate level, currently planned for implementation within a year.
Conceptual Frameworks are documents that identify the unique characteristics of any educator preparation unit, so as I began to craft our CF, I went back to our Dominican roots as an institution. Our Dominican tradition at Albertus provides a perfect framework for those of us who teach or aspire to teach. Think of the Four Pillars of Dominican Life: prayer, study, community, and ministry. Certainly, anyone who anticipates teaching needs to study broadly and purposefully. No matter what level of teaching-early childhood through higher education- the teacher needs to love to learn and to learn as much as possible in all disciplines, and to master the content one anticipates teaching. For those of us who teach from the Dominican tradition, prayer provides the spiritual dimension of what it means to teach. We pray for guidance to love our students and to bring them to lives of fulfillment. When we embrace our students as the unique human beings they are, from diverse cultures and levels of learning readiness, we form community with them and their families, to say nothing of the community we form with our colleagues and administrators who join with us to do the best for our students. For all teachers, and particularly for all teachers who complete their preparation at Albertus Magnus College, teaching is a ministry, a commitment to lead our students to lives of fulfillment.
Inherent in our Conceptual Framework for Education Programs at Albertus Magnus College is our tradition of honor. As a graduate of Albertus Magnus College, myself, I lived under the tradition of honor during my undergraduate experience. Then, I took that tradition with me to all my classes during the years I taught secondary English in both urban and suburban schools, and later to the students and teachers at the pre-K-8 school where I served as principal. This tradition, part of the Dominican heritage passed on to me at Albertus, became the basis for my formation of classrooms, communities if you will, of mutual respect between me and the students and colleagues with whom I engaged. For me, and I hope for all our teacher candidates, this mutual respect for each other and for an environment of integrity is critical if real learning and growth as human beings are to take place.
Finally, each time I read the Dominican motto inscribed on the walls surrounding the atrium of Tagliatela Academic Center at Albertus, …Contemplata aliis tradere, I think how fitting these words are for all teachers, and particularly for those of us educated in the Dominican tradition. The complete motto reads Contemplari et contemplata aliis tradere, To contemplate and to share the fruits of our contemplation. As teachers we must study diligently, teach passionately, and reflect on our study and how we carry out our instruction. Then, we share the results of our study and our reflection with our students and with our colleagues and the entire learning communities where we teach. This is how we get at Truth, in all its dimensions. This is how, as teachers, we live out the Dominican tradition.
Joan Venditto, Albertus Magnus College, ’63, is Associate Professor of Education and Director of Education Programs. In this position, she oversees the implementation of the College’s strategic initiatives for education at both undergraduate and graduate levels. Currently, these programs include teacher preparation programs leading to initial teacher certification for middle and secondary school classroom instruction, as well as a graduate level alternative route preparation program for reading specialists, and a Master of Science in Education program.
Dr. Venditto received the Master of Arts degree from Middlebury College and the degree of Doctor of Arts in English from Carnegie Mellon University. She also received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship at Yale University.
For many years, Dr. Venditto served as department coordinator of English at Daniel Hand High School in Madison, Connecticut, where she supervised and evaluated performance of members of the English department and was involved in the redesign of the curriculum and in assessment programs. She was principal of Our Lady of Mercy School, also in Madison, where she initiated a middle school program within the preK-8 structure, initiated strategic planning, and led the school through the continuing accreditation process of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Dr. Venditto served as a consultant of Hope Academy of Milford where she worked with the administration and faculty as the school charted a plan to seek formal approval from the Connecticut Department of Education as a school for special needs students.
An alumna of Sacred Heart Academy in Hamden, Dr. Venditto at one time served as the school’s Alumnae Director. Previous to her current appointment at Albertus, Dr. Venditto served as an adjunct faculty member of Albertus Magnus College, Southern Connecticut State University, and the University of Connecticut in its cooperative education program for secondary school students.