Above: Teaching Fellow April Hicks works with a kindergarten
student at Smokey Mountain Elementary School in Whittier.
The third time proved the charm for Western Carolina University’s College of Education and Allied Professions, 2007 co-winner of the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award presented annually by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.
Western for the past three years has been among the national finalists for the award given in recognition of excellence in teacher education. The award is named in honor of Christa McAuliffe, the teacher who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in January 1986.
Western shares this year’s award with teacher education programs at the University of Northern Colorado and St. Cloud State University in Minnesota.
“Our philosophy of teacher preparation at Western is in alignment with Christa McAuliffe’s often-quoted motto ‘I touch the future. I teach,’” said Michael Dougherty, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions. “Through our ongoing work with our many public school partners across Western North Carolina, we know we are living up to her legacy. By preparing and nurturing high-quality teachers who work in our schools and make a difference in pupil learning, we play a role in shaping the young people who represent the future of our region, our state and our nation.”
The award recognizes that Western is advancing the field of teacher education by identifying promising practices for measuring the impact of programs on teacher candidate knowledge, particularly on pupil learning from pre-kindergarten through grade 12, Dougherty said.
The McAuliffe award is the second national recognition for Western’s teacher education program in the past two years. The Association of Teacher Educators in February 2006 presented its Distinguished Program in Teacher Education award, given to teacher education programs that exhibit outstanding collaboration with local school systems, to WCU in recognition of the success of its School-University Teacher Education Partnership, better known as SUTEP.
Western Chancellor John W. Bardo said the national honors provide important, independent validation of the strength of the university’s teacher education program.
“I can think of no stronger evidence of the efforts of our faculty, staff, students and school partners than for Western to win two national awards for its teacher education program within two years. That is unheard of,” Bardo said. “We are facing serious shortages across the state and nationally in the number of qualified teachers needed to help ensure that our children are prepared for careers in an increasingly global economy. I hope these awards will increase the number of teacher education majors at Western. I am convinced than no institution prepares teachers better than Western – period.”
SUTEP is part of WCU’s effort to improve the academic achievement of students in all grade levels by providing assistance to educators at each step in their development – as student teachers, as they first enter the teaching profession, and as they reach the middle of their careers and seek additional professional development.
Established in 1997 as one of 14 such partnerships in North Carolina, SUTEP has formal agreements with 96 schools in 18 WNC school systems and informal partnerships with the remaining school systems and charter schools in the region, said Ruth McCreary, director of SUTEP since 2001.
Through the partnership, which also involves faculty from WCU’s College of Arts and Sciences, educators from local systems help provide a “real-world classroom” perspective to students in the university’s teacher education program. Teachers serve as clinical faculty, co-teaching selected courses with WCU instructors in an effort to blend theory and practice, and as cooperating teachers working with faculty members on education research projects. Local school systems also provide traditional pre-service field experience for WCU’s student teachers.
The Christa McAuliffe Award recognizes outstanding programs in teacher education at AASCU member institutions. AASCU institutions prepare more than 50 percent of all new teachers in the United States each year. The award highlights the major role that state colleges and universities play in the preparation of teachers.
For more information about teacher education at WCU, contact the College of Education and Allied Professions at (828) 227-7311 or visit the Web site at http://www.ceap.wcu.edu/.
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Last modified: Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2007