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The UPK Expansion — North, South, East and West

by JoAnn Vitiello, M.A., Edu.

fc joann vitiello main

JoAnn Vitiello, M.A., Edu. (Photo by Claudia Mirzaali)

Yes, that is correct. St. Josephs College is partnering up once again with a new public school district and will staff its universal pre-kindergarten (UPK) program. Beginning in September 2013, the Westbury Union Free School District’s pre-K program will be staffed with St. Josephs College graduates. Much of this initiative comes from Mary Fritz, Ed.D., associate professor of child study and director of SJC’s universal pre-kindergarten program, who has been involved with UPK since the College’s first partnership with the Patchogue-Medford School District in 2007. Westbury will now be one of four public school districts that work in collaboration with the College. The other three are Patchogue-Medford, and the Freeport and Lawrence school districts in southern Nassau County.

The design, vision and goals of the UPK program are to meet the challenges set forth by the New York State Department of Education to develop a pre-kindergarten program that will align standards, assessment, curriculum and instruction, and will support the beliefs that:

    • All children are capable of learning.
    • All children develop at different rates.
    • Early learning is multi-dimensional, integrated and occurs simultaneously across all domains.
    • Regardless of economic, linguistic, cultural differences, physical and/or emotional challenges, all children are entitled to a developmentally appropriate program.


Since the College’s beginning in 1916, countless graduates have obtained NYS certificates as teachers in various fields of education. Students who graduated from the child study department in 2013 received four certifications: Early Childhood (birth through grade 2), Childhood (grades 1-6), Students With Disabilities: Early Childhood (birth through grade 2) and Students With Disabilities: childhood (grades 1-6).

When writing a proposal to become the Leading Educational Agency (LEA) for a universal pre-kindergarten program for a particular school district, the aforementioned certifications speak of a rigorous program resulting in well-prepared teacher candidates and history proves that it is such.

In each of the four UPK programs, a co-teaching model is supported by a master teacher with an M.A. in Literacy and Cognition, and a co-teacher with a B.A. in Child Study. Both teachers work together to plan and instruct on a daily basis. The curriculum emphasizes a developmental approach toward children with a strong foundation in child development and good educational practice. Emphasis is placed on practices that are inclusive of children with special needs and acknowledge the importance of cultural and linguistic diversity. Within Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS), the program considers how children acquire knowledge, how they communicate meaning through spoken and written language, how they grow and develop, how they establish positive relationships with adults and peers, and what they need to know and understand about themselves and the world around them. By exploring topics of interest, areas of curiosity, engagement, initiative, persistence and creativity will be developed.

Working closely with the director of the program, St. Josephs College administration, school principals and the central administration of each district are on-site supervisors — faculty members of the child study department who are charged with overseeing the operation of the program in accordance with district requirements, education law and the regulations of the commissioner of education. The on-site supervisors meet with the director and collaborate with teachers to evaluate and support the program goals.

The nicest part of the UPK programs is that we are all part of the St. Joseph’s College family. The College’s motto, Esse non videri — “To be, not to seem” — is a banner that we wear proudly and is evident in the professional demeanor of each of our teachers, supervisors and staff. One thing that can be certain is that St. Joseph’s College is never at a shortage of young, eager, highly motivated graduates seeking to fulfill their dreams of becoming teachers.

On June 19, invited guests and staff of all three programs gathered at the Long Island Campus’ McGann Conference Center for the first time to celebrate. Good food, good conversation and lots of music provided everyone with a sense of oneness, which reinforced our purpose and motivated us to continue the college’s tradition of educating young children.

If you think the exquisite taste of good food in Freeport is on Guy Lombardi Boulevard, or the music in Westbury is at the theater alone, or the sounds of the ocean are only heard on the shore of Patchogue, and the cultural diversity is only seen in the shops and restaurants of Lawrence, you are mistaken. All of that and more can be seen, heard, tasted and touched in the classrooms of our UPK programs.

Come and see!  We promise you an enjoyable day.


Ms. Vitiello is a senior adjunct lecturer for the Long Island Campus’ Department of Child Study, and a site supervisor for the Freeport School District’s UPK program.


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