Fifty years ago, teachers taught readin’, writin’ and ’rithmetic. Today, they face complicated and, sometimes, controversial issues including, but certainly not limited to, No Child Left Behind mandates, the growth of charter schools, an explosion of knowledge, budgetary cutbacks, decreases in public funding and the world of cyberspace.
Elizabeth “Beth” Mauch, 41, dean of the College of Education, leads faculty dedicated to preparing Bloomsburg University’s education graduates for this new world. Nearly 400 new teachers graduate each year, following in the footsteps of BU’s earliest alumni, graduates of the Bloomsburg State Normal School.
Mauch brings a teacher’s perspective to the dean’s position. She joined the university in 1999 as a mathematics professor after earning a doctorate from Lehigh University. Part of her focus in the classroom was teaching students how to teach mathematics effectively.
Her desire to interest more young people in math and science prompted her to serve an administrative internship with Robert Marande, dean of the College of Science and Technology, during fall 2008 before accepting the interim dean position with the College of Education. “I felt I could impact more kids by mentoring the faculty and the students I have encountered,” she explains.
She was named permanent dean on May 25 after three years as interim dean.
Characteristics of a teacher
Mauch says the qualities of an outstanding teacher go far beyond “book knowledge.”
“Any educator must be good at the teaching end and know their content,” she says. “But, most of all, we’re looking at what is in the hearts and minds of our students.”
The College of Education looks for five main characteristics in its future teachers:
• Students who exhibit professionalism and uphold ethical standards. “Our students have to be professional from Day 1,” she says. “If they have a retail theft or underage drinking citation on their record, a school district may not hire them in four years.”
• Those who embrace diversity. “This is 21st century America, and our classrooms do not look like they used to.”
• Students with the ability to engage in collaborative endeavors with fellow teachers, administrators and support staff.
• Those who espouse lifelong learning and are willing to keep abreast of new developments.
• Students who are able to reflect and problem-solve.
Students enrolled in the College of Education’s programs are required to maintain an overall grade-point average of 3.0. To earn a teaching certificate, they also must pass a content exam administered by the Pennsylvania Department of Education or similar agency in another state.
Interaction is key
BU’s College of Education gives students many opportunities to work with children. Those interactions sometimes prompt education majors to choose other careers, but it’s better to come to that realization early, Mauch says.
Field experience typically is part of the freshman year. With guidance, education majors choose a school district where they observe students. As part of the experience, they answer a series of questions and share initial impressions.
Beginning in the sophomore year and continuing through the early part of the senior year, students choose from varied experiences.
“A good example of the ‘middle’ program is in the Danville School District,” Mauch notes. In the fall semester of the senior year, students work with a classroom teacher two days a week. In the spring, that classroom becomes part of their student teaching experience.
Also offered is an intense, two-week practicum in which students are immersed in a typically urban setting. A good example is in Easton/Bethlehem, where students stay at Lehigh University and assist teachers in the local schools. They also attend several events in the Bethlehem area, including a Latino dinner. (Editor’s note: Learn more about the Easton/Bethlehem practicum on page 22.)
Finally, during the second semester of their senior year, students engage in student teaching.
No Child Left Behind
Mauch worries about the loss of music, arts and athletic programs in some school districts due to budget cuts, calling it a “tragedy for our children.” She and her husband, James, will be able to fill the gap for their daughter, Edith, 6, she says, but not all students are so fortunate.
She also hears a common complaint among today’s teachers that they must “teach to the test” to meet the standards set by the No Child Left Behind Law of 2001. The law requires 95 percent of public school students to be proficient in reading and math by 2014.
While Mauch agrees that standardized tests are necessary to measure both teachers’ and students’ progress, she takes issue with the high stakes riding on the test results. “Ninety-five percent proficiency is a good goal, but I think officials are realizing that, obviously, it’s not an attainable goal. If you’re only teaching to the test, students aren’t really learning. They don’t wind up valuing lifelong learning.
“The assessment tests don’t necessarily measure a teacher’s skills and have become a necessary evil,” she adds. “Eventually, we’ll get back to something different.” •
Sue A. Beard, the retired editor of The Record Herald, Waynesboro, lives in North Fort Myers, Fla.