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St. Bonaventure’s School of Education partners with Diocese of Buffalo in Franciscan Fellows program

Apr 25, 2023

St. Bonaventure University’s School of Education is highly regarded for its robust teacher education programs, providing future educators with broad and inclusive professional preparation. 

That strong reputation continues through the Franciscan Fellows program, which launched in 2022 and connects education students to Catholic schools of the Diocese of Buffalo. The program allows students a continuation in Catholic education — from student to teacher — and offers them a real-world view of the many exciting things happening in Catholic schools.Nathan Tillinghast_Class of 2023_teaches at Queen of Heaven School

St. Bonaventure senior Nathan Tillinghast, an inclusive adolescence education and history major, enjoyed a semester of full-time student teaching at Queen of Heaven School in West Seneca last fall. He taught sixth- through eighth-grade social studies, preparing and delivering three lessons twice each day.

“My experience taught me the importance of planning but also how to remain flexible in the moment,” Tillinghast said. “Teaching three preps was a lot. Thankfully, my cooperating teacher and Queen of Heaven as a whole worked as a great support system to help with lessons, assessments, and resources.”

By teaching a variety of grades and time-periods in history, Tillinghast was able to get a better sense of what he would like to teach once he launches his career. He also learned the importance of fluidity in day-to-day teaching.

“I developed a good ability to know when it was appropriate to veer away from the plan; a good discussion, question, video, teachable moment, etc. Or when Masses, feast days, or other such events, foundational to the Catholic school environment, affected schedules, and flexibility was necessary,” he said. 

Jon Morris, St. Bonaventure’s director of Educator Preparation Placement and Certification, noted that the Franciscan Fellows program operates as a partnership with the Diocese of Buffalo, helping the Diocese find teachers while offering students an authentic off-campus experience within the Catholic school network.

“It gives our students a taste of what Catholic and private schools are like, with smaller classes and with the different things they teach,” Morris said. 

Currently, there are about eight students involved with clinical field experience or student teaching within the Diocese of Buffalo.

For Tillinghast, a native of Arcade, New York, it was helpful to find a student teaching position close to home. Overall it was a great experience for him.

“I learned best the importance of student and teacher connections as it relates to academic performance and classroom management,” Tillinghast said. 

He also enjoyed the genuine camaraderie he found among the Queen of Heaven classmates.

“These students have spent years of their lives together,” he said, which at times culminated in much love and laughter in the classroom. “It was a cool thing to be a part of.”

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