It’s been almost 50 years since Sandi Lederman Schwartz ’68 graduated from SUNY Cortland, but to her it feels like yesterday.
“Every time I come back to New York, I meet up with a bunch of my sorority sisters and we get together and tell stories. It always feels like we’re back in Shea Hall,” she said.
Schwartz will be returning to her alma mater on Wednesday, Oct. 11 to give a talk aimed at education majors about her life, experiences and what she learned as a teacher and parent. The event begins at 7 p.m. in Sperry Center, Room 105 and is free and open to the public.
Schwartz, a former Alpha Delta sister, graduated with a bachelor’s degree in education. Her teaching career spanned 45 years.
“I went to Cortland because they had such a good teaching reputation,” she said.
When Schwartz gives her talk to students on campus, she wants her words to help aspiring teachers realize that being a teacher is more than the curriculum, it’s about knowing who you are as a person and what you can impart to children. She hopes that her story will make students reflect on themselves and why they chose this career path.
“It’s not all about curriculum, planning and grades, it’s about connecting human to human. It’s about who we are as the teacher or the person who is in the life of a child,” Schwartz said.
Since fifth grade, Schwartz knew she wanted to be a kindergarten teacher and work with children.
“My fifth grade teacher asked for volunteers to help in a kindergarten classroom during recess and my hand just shot up. When I went into the classroom, I knew I was home,” she said.
After having what Schwartz describes as a “two wonderful student-teaching experiences at Cortland,” she went to New York City where she received her master’s degree in child development and education from Columbia University. She taught as a kindergarten teacher at New York City Public School 171 and trained student teachers at Hunter College until she took a leave of absence to raise her son, Matthew.
While at home, Schwartz taught private piano lessons and volunteered to play piano for her son’s kindergarten production at the Reuben Gittelman School in Rockland County.
“When the principal saw the way I interacted with the children he asked if I was a certified teacher and the next thing I knew I started teaching music at the school,” she said.
After teaching there for 14 years, Schwartz later became executive director of Citigroup's Children Center in lower Manhattan and worked there for six years. In 2004, she moved to California to become the program director for the Child Development Department at Mt. San Jacinto College, where she oversaw two campus schools and taught courses for education majors.
While training teachers, Schwartz, who was a mother herself, wondered, “Who teaches parents these things?” This curiosity led Schwartz to create Leading Edge Parenting, a consulting business that focuses on transforming the way parents and educators respond to the needs of children. Co-founded with her daughter, Melissa Schwartz, the mother-daughter duo travels the country giving workshops and speeches that inform parents how to speak and discipline their children while forming trustworthy relationships.
In 2013, with the help of her daughter, Schwartz wrote a book titled Authentic Parenting Power: Shift Your Thoughts, Change Their Behavior. The book gives suggestions to parents about how to deal with some of the toughest parenting challenges and how to understand the inner world of children.
Schwartz was presented the New York State Excellence in Leadership Award by Gov. George Pataki in June 2002. The award is given to individuals who have made a significant contribution to New York State’s children and families and the education system. Schwartz was recognized for her leadership and courage in dealing with the events that occurred on Sept. 11, 2001 when she was the executive director of the Citigroup Children’s Center.
Schwartz is looking forward to returning to SUNY Cortland with her daughter, Melissa.
“This feels very special to bring my daughter to see where I went to school and where her dad came to visit me while we dated during college,” she said.
Schwartz hopes that her personal story will encourage SUNY Cortland students to do some soul-searching.
“I hope my story makes students reflect on themselves and their hopes and dreams. It doesn’t matter how old we are, we are the same little boys and girls on the inside,” Schwartz said.
For more information, contact the School of Education at 607-753-5431.
Prepared by Communications Office writing intern McKenzie Henry