September 30, 2001
Mary Ann Travis
Volunteering has its rewards and limits. As Tulane students have tutored in New Orleans public schools through the service learning program in the past two years, many have discovered, if they didn't already know, that accomplished professionals are essential to getting the job of teaching done well. And many of these students have set their sights on becoming the professional behind the desk. They want to teach. And they want Tulane to offer teacher training.
"This student demand," says Teresa Soufas, dean of the Faculty of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, "has led the university to implement a new teacher certification program in collaboration with Loyola University." Teri C. Davis, coordinator of the newly formed Department of Teacher Certification, joined Tulane in July with a clear-cut mission: to train quality teachers.
"I want to prepare teachers," says Davis. "We have many students who want to be teachers. And one of my jobs is to break down the barriers to help anybody who wants to teach to be able to do that, wherever they want to teach, whatever state, whatever country. If they want to go to Guam, we'll figure out how to get them there."
Soufas, to whom Davis reports, says that increased student interest in teacher training stems partly from national attention to the need for improving and enhancing education at the kindergarten through 12th grade level. "As our students go as volunteers into schools in the community, they show interest in teaching as a career, and they see the need for good teaching," says Soufas.
The new program, which is for secondary education certification to teach 7th through 12th grades, was approved unanimously by the liberal arts and sciences faculty a year ago. Students will major in an academic field and receive their bachelors degrees from Tulane.
At Tulane, they'll take Introduction to Education and Secondary School Methods, taught by Davis, and Educational Psychology and Adolescent Psychology, taught by members of the psychology department. For the other teaching methodology courses and student-teaching credit courses, they'll go to Loyola.
Once all the requirements are met, including 150 hours of service in actual classrooms, students will receive teacher certification from the state of Louisiana. Then they can apply for teacher certification in other states. The certification is transferable, says Davis. Because the university has students from many states, Davis expects that Tulane's teacher certification program will have nationwide impact.
While Davis is willing to help current seniors and juniors figure out how to get certified, she's particularly concentrating on the freshmen in her Introduction to Education course this fall. She foresees them--and future students entering the program--moving through the requirements as a cohort, developing team skills, so that they all get certified at approximately the same time in four years.
Davis, who is completing her dissertation for a doctorate in educational administration and leadership from Kansas State University, has teaching experience in Kansas and Texas from the pre-kindergarten level to higher education. She says she holds performance-based ideas about preparing teachers and evaluating students, so her Introduction to Education course is not simply a lecture class. She plans to get the 26 students enrolled in the class into schools as mentors and observers.
Pre-service teachers have to be able to show that they can actually perform in the classroom, says Davis. She expects the teachers-in-training to prove that they have expertise not only in their content area or academic major but also that they can effectively teach what they know about a subject and that the students whom they teach are successful in mastering the material.
"It's easy to sit in the classroom and take in information and regurgitate it back onto a piece of paper on a test," Davis says. "But what we want--and what the movement is nationally that we're following--is for our pre-service teachers to demonstrate they can teach."
The energy, enthusiasm and caring that Tulane students bring to their volunteer tutoring should carry over to their future professional roles as teachers, says Davis. "We were talking about this in class last week--we teach students. We don't teach a book. We don't just say were going to go from the beginning to the end of a book."
"The whole philosophy of how we're teaching is one of looking at students and trying to meet the needs of students. That philosophy involves understanding different learning styles and that students are all different," says Davis. "My basic philosophy is to try to teach my students to teach their future students as individuals and not just lecture through a curriculum, but to be active learners and to be like that in how they teach."
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