By Dwight Watson
After attending the Governor’s Iowa Teacher and Principal Leadership Symposium in Des Moines on Aug. 3, I reflected on what was said as we prepare the next teacher to be better than the last. Many indicated that students graduate not prepared to teach.
This is not the case at the University of Northern Iowa. Our students come to UNI’s programs with the academic capacity built to last. They enter the teaching program with an average 3.05 GPA and graduate with an average 3.36 GPA, placing our future teachers in the top 10 percent of their class at UNI.
Despite the increased scrutiny and accountability in public education, these students are excited, motivated and engaged. Our job in teacher preparation is to capture this effervescence and to prepare them better than the last, so that as teachers they can enable and propel all of their students to attend, behave, try, believe and, most of all, learn.
To prepare the next teacher better than the last, we can’t rest on the laurels of our legacy program. We need to strive to make sure that our teacher education students are prepared for the realities of Iowa’s classrooms. Teacher education students must have a multiplicity of skills sets so they can enter the classroom competent and confident. UNI is poised to enhance and incorporate these skills sets into our teacher preparation program.
We call these skills sets our premier points that will enable us to prepare effective teachers to educate, serve and lead the next generation. These premier points are assessment, community service and outreach, diversity, field experience, inquiry, leadership, literacy and technology.
Competent and confident teachers must be able to use assessment to inform instruction; immerse themselves in their classroom, recognize that culture, race and ethnicity matter; extend their expertise through field-based experiences; create rigorous and relevant inquiry-based curricula; develop teacher-leader characteristics to enhance the profession; enhance the literacy development of all learners; and embrace technology as a conduit to innovation. We at UNI are moving forward with this transformational preparation.
We must honor UNI’s legacy in teacher education as we move forward, but we must let others know the landscape of teacher preparation at UNI has changed. I encourage all of you to visit our program and see for yourself the progress and innovation.
We are indeed built to last as we prepare the next teacher better than the last.
Dwight Watson is dean of the College of Education at the University of Northern Iowa. Comments: email@example.com