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College of Education

August 2010

Fishing for college history

Guest blogger Sarah Goehri (’10) interned in the College of Education communications office in 2009-2010. Sarah is putting her communications degree to work in Los Angeles, where she is a public relations account coordinator.

My assignment:  Learn what I could about the the history of education programs at Washington State University by fishing through more than 100 years of course catalogs.   It was tedious and it was eye-opening.  I decided early in the project to focus on my second reaction.

Until 1959, despite evidence to the contrary, all references to students were 'he' or 'him.'

As mentioned in the article that resulted, The Evolving WSU College of Education, Pullman only had 350 residents when Washington State College opened in 1892. I think some of today’s 101 classes have more freshmen than that now!

Overall growth wasn’t the only thing that intrigued me in my quest for historical highlights.  Cultural changes caught my eye. For decades, every catalog referred to WSU students as “he” or “him.”  It wasn’t until 1959 that the catalogs started using “student” as a more general term.  Of course, there were women majoring in education, psychology and physical education during those years but the catalogs only used male pronouns to describe everyone.  These days, I am so used to reading politically correct and gender neutral writing, that reading all-male references struck me as strange.

Aside from the years of departmental and structural changes, there were hundreds of changes in the education classes offered.  Some of the classes that I found interesting were:
•    Carpentry (making bird houses, dog kennels and mini barns)
•    Constructive drawing (floor plans, elevations, cottages, barns)
•    School hygiene (affecting the personal health of students: heating, lighting, ventilation)
•    Shorthand and typewriting (offered as a major/minor for students teaching secondary education)

Mentioned early on in the catalogs, 1919 to be exact, was the Alpha Beta Club.  I like to think of this as predecessor to the Education Graduate Organization (EGO), which I wrote about during fall semester.  The catalog described the club as a collection of advanced and graduate students in the education department. Its members met monthly.  Oddly, the 1919 catalog was the only one that made a reference to the Alpha Beta Club, so we can only guess at how popular it was.  Clearly students had the right idea, given that the present-day EGO is very successful and has a strong presence within the college.

I tackled this research project during my final semester at Washington State.  I was able to learn parts of the university’s history that otherwise I would have never known — which was important, considering I called Pullman home for four years.  Learning how much WSU and the College of Education have grown during the past century reminded me of the inevitability of change.

Go Cougs!

The best teachers, certifiably

The master teacher, the über teacher, the best of the best.  That’s the one that all parents want in their child’s classroom.

But how does someone know whose skills are top-notch?  Since 1987, one important indicator has been National Board Certification. More than 82,000 teachers have met its standards through study, expert evaluation, self-assessment and peer review.

Vancouver certification seekers Meredith Gannon, left, and Marna Hopkins

The certification process is tough, but teachers don’t have to go it alone. Support programs are available, including the National Board program offered by the WSU College of Education. Director Debra Pastore and her team of certified instructors have helped 900 teachers from 95 school districts.

“WSU helped launched the statewide National Board Certification support system in 2000,” says Deb. “That’s when our dean, Judy Mitchell, wrote the initial grant proposal along with Pat Wasley of the University of Washington, Patty Raichle of the Washington Education Association, and Lin Douglas of the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.”

The Gates Foundation, Stuart Foundation, and Washington Mutual came through with $4.5 million. Since then, a new group of teachers has started WSU’s program each June. They work with facilitators all over the state. Some even complete the program on line.

Each teacher invests approximately 300 hours of work outside of the classroom during the year-long program. Much of their labor involves documenting student learning through work samples and videos. Those materials are part of what goes into a portfolio—aka “the box”—that is mailed off for assessment in late March.

“This is an extremely important day in the process,” says Deb. “The only other day more important is the day scores are released, usually in late November.”

Between 65 and 70 percent of teachers enrolled in the WSU program get good news, compared to a 40 percent national success rate. In Washington, those who earn certification get an annual bonus of $5,000 from the state, plus an additional $5,000 if they teach in a high-needs school. Those who continue teaching get the bonus for 10 years, until the certificate expires.

There is no expiration date on the pride of being at the top of their profession.

“Teachers have been the scapegoat for what’s wrong with education for many years,” says Deb. “Anyone who believes that has not spent time in the classrooms of these teachers.”

Serendipity and scholarship

First, let’s pause to acknowledge A.G. Rud‘s first day as our dean.  To welcome him to Cougar land, here is the WSU fight song like you’ve never heard it before:  a banjo rendition by Don Peckham, ’74.

A.G. Rud

As A.G. tackles a new administrative role, the journal Teachers College Record is highlighting his scholarship with a review of a book he co-edited, John Dewey at 150: Reflections for a New Century.   Coincidentally, TCR is also headlining an opinion piece by WSU Associate Professor Jason Margolis titled “Why Teacher Quality is a Local Issue (And Why Race to the Top is a Misguided Flop).

Jason wrote the commentary with a passion fueled by his experiences as a teacher and researcher.   It may be just coincidence that Dewey is among  the educational philosophers cited in one of five comments that were quickly posted regarding Jason’s article.  (Such comments in the journal are rare, says Jason, who was tickled that his opinions had stirred things up.)

Jason’s perspective on Race to the Top is the subject of a “Tip Sheet” sent out by WSU News Service, titled “Education Expert: Demand for ‘Teacher Quality’ Could Doom U.S. Schools.” Earlier in August, the expertise of Professor Phyllis Erdman was likewise featured in “Your Parents or Me! Book Explores How Culture Impacts Relationships.”

Phyllis and buddy Beau

Phyllis was busy this summer as she went into the home stretch of her stint as interim dean.   As she explains in an article she wrote for the journal Animal Human Interaction, she’s been working with two WSU colleagues on an equine-assisted growth and learning program for kids called PATH to Success.  The trio spent a week participating in the Horse Warriors program in Jackson, Wyoming, where they were mentored by nationally known specialists in the field of equine mental health and learning programs.  That’s also where Phyllis was smitten with a horse named Beau.

In other faculty news: Professor Brian McNeill has been elected a fellow for Division 45 Society for the Psychological Study of Ethnic Minority Issues of the American Psychological Association.  Brian’s expertise is Latino healing traditions, and he is co-editor of the book Intersections of Multiple Identities: A Casebook of Evidence-based Practices with Diverse Populations (Routledge, 2009).

And Associate Professor David Greenwood is saying his farewells. After nine years on the Pullman campus, he’s heading up to Lakehead University on the shore of Lake Superior, where he will swat black flies, hear wolves … and hold the Canada Research Chair in Environmental Education.

Writing in the margins

What began as creative conference organizing became, for Heidi Stanton, an introduction to some marvelously open people.  And a course in  exhibit planning. And an unexpected dissertation topic.

Heidi Stanton's "Power of One" portrait

Heidi is the Washington State University employee and education doctoral student behind “The Power of One” exhibit at Pullman’s Compton Union Building Gallery.  It features poster-sized photos of 30 students, faculty, staff and community members, all paired with handwritten observations about their lives or the role of diversity.

You can see some of the posters in the WSU Today article published last spring, when Heidi expected them to be displayed in connection with Northwest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) student leadership conference.  The project took longer than expected, however, and the CUB display has only now gone up.

Heidi directs the Gender Identity/Expression and Sexual Orientation Resource Center. When planning the conference, she wanted to bring the “Shared Heart” poster project by photographer Adam Mastoon, which features gay teenagers.  That wasn’t available, but Mastoon suggested he create a project for the WSU community.  Heidi loved the idea. She  sought participants via the LGBT e-mail list and the general campus announcements.

“I started getting interest from people who I would never have thought to invite, and it ended up being a really rich sampling of the community:  administrators, community members, parents, youth, gay, straight … all different kinds of people, all excited about telling their stories,” said Heidi.

Adam flew from his Rhode Island home to Pullman, where he introduced himself to participants by describing his own journey from out-of-place gay teen to happily partnered professional.  That session was the start of much labor on his part, and Heidi’s.

Meanwhile, Heidi planned the conference, ran the resource center, and continued working toward her Ph.D. in higher education administration.  She was struggling to find a focus for her dissertation on campus climate.  (“Administrators tend to think that the campus is safe and inclusive, and the students have a different perspective,” she explained. “Both sides are true.”)

One day, she mentioned to Associate Professor Paula Groves Price that the portrait project would someday be a good research topic.

“Paula said ‘No, that’s your dissertation. That’s something you’re passionate about,’ ” Heidi said. “When I talked with my committee, they were all on board with that. ”

Her dissertation title:  “Writing in the Margins: How participants in the Power of One Project perceive campus climate.”

“I think there is an assumption that the portrait project is about gay and lesbian people, but it is really about how these 30 people experience campus climate.  It really isn’t about sexual orientation, it is about visibility and mattering,” she said. “Fewer than half of the participants identify as something other than heterosexual. Each one was remarkably open.”

“The Power of One” (which includes the EduCoug blogger among its subjects) will be on display in the first-floor CUB Gallery until Sept. 10, when it will close with a 1 p.m. reception.

Washington State University