March 16, 2005

Teacher program earns national honors

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A graduate teaching program at Southern Illinois University Carbondale that involves collaboration with local school districts is the recipient of a national educators' award.

The Association of Teacher Educators last month named SIUC's Teaching Fellows Graduate Program a Distinguished Program in Teacher Education. The program, within the College of Education and Human Services, started in January 1999, and places certified graduate students from a variety of teaching programs with mentoring public school teachers in the classroom four days a week for a school year.

There are relatively few programs like this in the nation for graduate students, said Lynn C. Smith, an associate professor in Curriculum and Instruction and the program's director.

The award is the first for the program, and "a reflection on our partners and how closely we do work together and the respect we have for each other," said D. John McIntyre, professor in Curriculum and Instruction and special assistant to the dean for teacher education.

The model for the program was a small teaching fellows program that Dean R. Keith Hillkirk worked with at Ohio University prior to 1998. SIUC secured funding for the program from the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

Teaching Fellows receive a graduate assistant stipend including a tuition waiver, and most take a graduate school course load of six to nine credit hours per semester. Teaching Fellows may select a one- or two-year program option.

"When they are finished they are highly sought after by school districts because they are coming in as a first-year teacher with one or two years experience," McIntyre said. "They really know what they are doing and have been very successful and creative in the classroom."

Eighteen students are in the program, which has a professional development school partnership with the Carbondale Elementary School District, Giant City Consolidated School District, Murphysboro Community Unit School District and the Unity Point Community Consolidated School District.

Many of the Teaching Fellows have come from SIUC's undergraduate education programs, but there are graduates from the University of Illinois, Princeton, Bradley University, Millikin University and MacMurray College in Jacksonville,

Offering progressive graduate education is among the goals of Southern at 150: Building Excellence Through Commitment, the blueprint for the development of the University by the time it celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019.