“B-U-F-F-A-L-O! Put it all together
And you get BUFFALO!
B-E-N-G-A-L-S! Put it all together
Because we are the BEST!”
That’s the chant you might hear coming out of Kristi Guinness’s first-grade gifted and talented class at Chelsea Prep, a New York City public school in Manhattan. Guinness, a Long Island native who earned her B.S.Ed. in 2011, is sharing her Bengal pride with her students.
Even before the Common Core curriculum emphasized college readiness, Chelsea Prep was encouraging its students to plan on attending college. “In the fall, our school has a college pep rally,” said Guinness. “My students learn a long chant and perform it at the rally.” The 2013 pep rally was a special thrill because Wendy Paterson, dean of the School of Education, sent “Year of the Teacher” T-shirts for the students to wear.
Chelsea Prep also holds a college fair in the spring. “All my students do research on Buffalo State,” Guinness said. “They go to the college website, decide what’s interesting, and talk about what to be when they grow up.” Some want to be bankers, some want to be artists, and others want to work in fashion—“especially designing wedding dresses.”
Guinness’s students call themselves the 217 Bengals. “That’s our room number,” she said. “Each student’s name is written in a paw print on the door, and I tell them about Buffalo State from the very first day.”
At age 12, Guinness knew she wanted to teach. “A SUNY school made sense economically,” she said. “I really liked Buffalo State because it had a strong campus life and a city around it.”
Her students are intrigued when they find out that Buffalo State’s library is as big as their school building, and that the Albright-Knox Art Gallery across the street is free for Buffalo State students. “And they’re fascinated because Niagara Falls is so close,” said Guinness.
Listening to Guinness, it’s clear that her own enthusiasm for Buffalo State, and her deep happiness with her career, is the real inspiration for her students. “The students I have surprise me all the time,” she said. “They have such good questions, so curious. Coming to work is easy for me every day.”
Buffalo State placed Guinness in a student-teaching position at Chelsea Prep because she wanted to teach in New York City. "I was in the building when the teacher of a first-grade gifted class was out," she said. "So I started subbing, and I loved it." She earned a certificate for gifted and talented teaching from Columbia University.
But it was Buffalo State that developed her confidence. "Buffalo State puts students in the classrooms early, and it makes a huge difference. I felt confident and flexible, and so I went in to the classroom knowing that nothing is concrete and you need to be prepared for anything. My professors really cared, and they showed us that. They modeled it, and now it’s something I try to do every day."