South Orangetown Central School District

SOMS Science Teacher Robert Calone, Ed.D.

South Orangetown Middle School Science teacher Rob Calone recently earned his Doctor of Education degree from Northcentral University in San Diego, CA. For his dissertation, Calone researched factors influencing teacher self-efficacy.

His motivation? Personal experience–which includes 21 years teaching in the South Orangetown Central School District–and a sixth grade letter to his future self that he addressed to “Dr. Calone.”

“We all want to be the best at what we do, so I was motivated to look into the factors that influence teachers’ confidence in their ability to perform well professionally–particularly since this can also influence student achievement, school climate and teacher wellbeing,” he explained.

Calone noted that mastery opportunities–time in the classroom, instructional rounds and observations–have the greatest impact on teacher self-efficacy, followed closely by “vicarious experiences,” such as mentoring. Other key factors are social feedback and emotional state.

“In recent years, our District has done a better job addressing the importance of teachers’ emotional state by dedicating our May Superintendent’s Conference Half-Day to focusing on wellness. Supporting teachers benefits students,” noted Calone.

The power of feeling heard matters. “One of the important things that I found was that teachers who felt that they had a voice in what they were doing had greater confidence in their professional performance. Having input into the direction of one’s career and classroom is positively associated with self-efficacy,” he said.

Since earning a doctorate was a goal he set for himself as a middle schooler, the achievement mindset he has modeled for his sixth grader students is not lost on Calone, who reflected, “At the end of each school year, I share Langston Hughes’ poem, ‘Motto’ with my kids. Trying to understand and be understood is what life is all about.”

Motto by Langston Hughes
I play it cool
And dig all jive
That’s the reason
I stay alive.

My motto,
As I live and learn,
Dig and Be Dug
In Return.