St. Thomas begins partnership with Maxfield Elementary in St. Paul

St. Thomas begins partnership with Maxfield Elementary in St. Paul

St. Thomas begins partnership with Maxfield Elementary in St. Paul

Coordinators believe it is among the first of its kind in the state.

Under the new arrangement, college students and professors will have a daily presence at the elementary school, for both student teaching and research.

5 EYEWITNESS NEWS first reported on the plan back in January.

It officially kicked off this week with the start of the new school year.

Four undergraduate students will do student teaching there, along with four graduate student residents.

The University of St. Thomas also now has its own classroom at Maxfield Elementary, where professors will teach some of their college courses.

They said it is the first time they have ever hosted classes in an elementary school building.

“It’s really just the idea of having a physical presence,” said Dr. Chelda Smith Kondo, associate professor in the School of Education at the University of St. Thomas. “It is multi-directional. We’re learning from Maxfield staff, faculty, students and families and then they’re learning from us.”

Elementary school teachers will rotate in as well, to instruct college students pursuing careers in education.

“They get the opportunity to ask us questions, see how we puzzle our days together,” said Brandi Pottle, a fifth-grade teacher at Maxfield. “They’re also going to hear how we dialogue with families, what we do to reach out and connect with our families.”

Pottle said the school, located in St. Paul’s Rondo neighborhood for more than a century, serves a diverse population.

The majority are students of color, including some with special needs.

During this new partnership, St. Thomas staff will also conduct research, including how to reach children from different backgrounds, boost educational outcomes and close achievement gaps.

“We know there are specific needs that students have and so we’re going to research, how do we make sure those needs are met? We’re really going to be looking for what works at Maxfield and how do we amplify and sustain it,” Smith Kondo said.

She said that could be used to inform culturally relevant teaching practices, not only at St. Thomas, but at universities nationwide.

“We recognize that in a post-pandemic world, students are functioning and operating differently,” she said. “We need to retool and we think the best way to do that is to learn from schools that are trying to make sense of this and evolve in a post-pandemic world, in a post-George Floyd world. At the same time, we know that we do have some things that have historically worked and continue to work from the teacher education side, so we’re hoping that coming in here, we can partner to where we’re having an exchange.”

Rose Say, a senior at St. Thomas, believes the immersive experience at Maxfield will help her pursue her dream of becoming a second-grade teacher.

“You get to be there, you get to experience it and you get to take that knowledge and use it for the future,” Say said.

The partnership is slated to last for at least the next five years.

For more information on the new collaborative learning school, click here.