Mount Made: Around the World and Back Again
Mount Alum, Peace Corps Volunteer Leads Education Reform in Ukraine
It was only a few years ago that Todd Gable ’15 graduated from the Mount. Since then, he’s accomplished far more than he ever imagined, diligently working to bring sustainable development to the public education system in Ukraine.
As an undergraduate, Todd was dedicated to his studies. He knew education was his calling—even before he arrived in Riverdale.
However, during a life-defining student teaching placement at a Bronx high school, Todd’s dreams expanded beyond the boroughs—and even beyond the states. He enrolled in a Mount-sponsored service project that sent him to Thailand to teach English to Burmese refugees, an experience that forever changed him.
It wasn’t only his time in and around the classroom that prepared him for life after the Mount. A pioneer of campus governance, Todd led his classmates as the President of the Student Government Association. He received the Saint John XXIII Leadership Award during graduation and became an Associate of the Sisters of Charity of New York.
Todd’s passion for teaching, love of service, and commitment to leadership propelled his decision to become part of something bigger. On Christmas Day 2014, during his service immersion in Thailand, Todd applied to join the Peace Corps.
After months of interviews, detailed applications, background checks, and a few inevitable hiccups along the way, his hard work paid off; he was accepted as a United States Peace Corps TEFL Volunteer.
Todd credits divine intervention for guiding him to his placement in Zalishchyky, Ukraine, a small town along the Dniester River in western Ukraine near the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Sisters. He had hopes of a placement in a small town, preferably by a river, and among a community of religious sisters—a place similar to his second home, Mount Saint Vincent.
Although he lived in the midst of a country in conflict, Todd immersed himself in the Ukrainian culture, while holding true to his passion, as he implemented a progressive educational reform.
People are dying on a daily basis at the Russian border. Students are stuck in conflict. It’s a challenging time for the education system in Ukraine. But Todd committed the past four years to advocating for systemic change and, most importantly, peace in an unstable nation.
“Peace Corps Volunteers try to bring practical and universal tools and skills that educators can utilize to reach the goals Ukraine has deemed to be important,” he explained.
Todd speaking at the opening ceremonies of the New Ukrainian School forum.
Todd held many roles during his time as a Peace Corps Volunteer. He spent time teaching English at Zalishchyky State Gimnasia, secured U.S. Embassy grants for three national conferences for English teachers, presented at a TEDx conference, served as a juror on the National English Olympiad Committee, presented at a TESOL-Ukraine International Conference for two years, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer Leader, providing supervisory responsibilities for trainees.
In the Fall of 2018, Todd found himself in the midst of the New Ukrainian School (NUS), an education policy meant to revamp the Ukrainian education system by placing students at the center of the learning process. In order to bring life to the policy, Todd and his Ukrainian colleagues created the first national training for teachers and principals on the topic of NUS. The Mount supported this training by sending Seonhee Cho, Associate Professor of Teacher Education, to lead the teacher training efforts. Todd and the Mount were recognized by the Ministry of Education and Science for their support and efforts.
Todd and Dr. Seonhee Cho representing the Mount at the NUS forum.
One of his most exciting endeavors came from a grant Todd and his colleagues were awarded from Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn program in August 2017. They used the award to sponsor a national conference for English Language teachers called Camp LEAD (Leadership and Equality in an Active Democracy) and invited the Regional English Language Officer of the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, John Silver, to host sessions. Four years later the program has been recognized by the Ministry of Education and Science for training over 1,000 teachers of English.
Only last month—four years to the date of his arrival in Ukraine—Todd’s service came to an abrupt halt. The Director of the Peace Corps’ Global Operations, Jody Olson, announced that, for the first time in the Agency’s history, she would be evacuating over 7,000 Peace Corps Volunteers from 62 different countries due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Having returned to the U.S., Todd accepted an offer to join the Peace Corps Fellows Program at Teachers College, Columbia University, which allows him to continue to answer the call to serve in America while seeking to further his education. The Fellows Program awarded Todd a $60,000 scholarship to pursue his master’s degree at no cost. Additionally, he will extend his Peace Corps service by jumping into a new role as a New York City public school teacher in a district where at least 50 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch.
Readjusting to life back in the United States will take time, but Todd is eager to reconnect with many of his peers and professors at the Mount. He began his career as an educator while student teaching in the New York City public school system, and he is excited to see his journey as a teacher come full circle.
And as an alum, Todd also plans to help interested Mount students through the Peace Corps application process, hoping to encourage more students to take advantage of this unique opportunity and experience.
“Mount Saint Vincent and the Sisters of Charity instilled within me a passion for service. This was— and has been—my motivation throughout my service in Peace Corps Ukraine,” said Todd. “Serving as a Peace Corps Volunteer has been an unforgettable experience, and I can’t wait to continue to carry on that mission closer to home.”
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About the College of Mount Saint Vincent
Founded in 1847 by the Sisters of Charity, the College of Mount Saint Vincent offers nationally recognized liberal arts education and a select array of professional fields of study on a landmark campus overlooking the Hudson River. Committed to the education of the whole person, and enriched by the unparalleled cultural, educational, and career opportunities of New York City, the College equips students with the knowledge, skills, and experiences necessary for lives of achievement, professional accomplishment and leadership in the 21st century.