WMU News

KPS/WMU partnership to help new teachers launch careers

August 24, 1998

KALAMAZOO -- A pilot project combining modern laptop computing technology and old-fashioned personal mentoring will help Kalamazoo Public Schools' beginning teachers successfully launch their careers, KPS and Western Michigan University officials announced today at Arcadia Elementary School.

While touring the school on opening day with Dr. Kay Royster, KPS superintendent, WMU President Elson S. Floyd announced that a small group of first- and second-year KPS teachers would be the first to benefit from the new education initiative, which is designed to help beginning teachers make the transition from student to teacher.

"We're going to provide the technology and University faculty support that will help teachers make that very difficult transition," Floyd says. "We want to extend the partnerships we've already developed with schools to train new teachers. Working with our colleagues in the public schools, we want to continue to provide the kind of support that will enable those teachers to become the very best educators for our children."

The University will provide each new teacher in the pilot program with a College of Education faculty mentor as well as a laptop computer and access to the University's computing resources. The teachers will have regular one-on-one meetings with their mentors and will be able to communicate with their mentors and other new teachers via e-mail and on-line discussion groups. They also will be able to use their University computing account to access the World Wide Web for research and additional support.

"Teacher education is a lifelong process," says Dr. Frank Rapley, dean of WMU's College of Education. "Our goal and the effort we've put into developing school/University partnerships is designed to improve student learning at every level."

The University's faculty and preservice programs also will benefit greatly from the program because of constant interaction with new teachers who are facing the challenge of applying their University education when they take the helm in a classroom.

"We have as much to learn as to teach," Rapley says of the opportunity provided by the partnership.

He added that teacher education should be viewed as a life-long process with three distinct phases. The first is preservice training. The second period includes the first two or three years in the classroom when new teachers need the support of seasoned educators to make the transition. After that, Rapley says, teachers spend the next 25 years in continuing professional development.

In recent years, WMU has revamped its preservice training programs to develop School/University Partnership Teams with 40 schools in nine Michigan school districts. Six to 10 teaching interns are clustered at each school site. There they work with a mentor in the school and are visited regularly by a University faculty member. Each cluster site also relies on school principals and other teachers in the school to help interns progress as they develop their teaching skills.

"This initiative will help us extend that kind of support into the first few years of teaching," Rapley says. "It's a natural progression and one we hope to offer on a wider basis in the future."

Rapley says the pilot program is the first step in launching the College of Education's current proposal to establish a graduate certificate program for beginning teachers in a partnership with Region 7 of the Michigan Association of School Administrators, which covers Southwest Michigan. The graduate program will focus on providing new teachers with support during their first years in the classroom as well as inservice training that will allow them to complete 18 hours of post-degree training required to continue their teacher certification.

With 11 cluster sites located in Kalamazoo this fall, KPS was a logical choice in selecting a site to launch the pilot program, Rapley says. Each semester, about 100 WMU teaching interns, nearly a third of all its teaching interns, are placed in Kalamazoo Schools.

Kalamazoo schools working with WMU this fall as cluster sites for teacher training are: Chime Elementary, Indian Prairie Elementary, Northeastern Elementary, Northglade Elementary, Oakwood Elementary, Spring Valley Elementary, Winchell Elementary, Milwood Middle, South Middle, Loy Norrix High School and Kalamazoo Central High School.

Media contact: Cheryl Roland, 616 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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