CORVALLIS - Oregon State University education dean Sam Stern believes he knows how to meet the growing need for high quality teachers Oregon is facing to help teach bulging K-12 populations of increasingly diverse students.
They are already walking the halls of OSU, enrolled in engineering, science, forestry, agriculture and other degree programs.
So Stern has developed a plan for an innovative new approach to teacher education - the creation of an "overlay" degree that will allow students in any OSU discipline to simultaneously seek an education degree and appropriate teaching credentials.
The plan has been discussed widely on campus and preliminary conversations have been held with the Chancellor's Office staff and the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.
"Surveys of students indicate that there is a real interest in the new pathway to teaching," Stern said. "The idea is to create multiple pathways for our students to be successful, Many OSU students who are studying engineering, for example, may never co nsider teaching as a possibility. Taking a double major doesn't easily fit inside an engineering degree.
"But an overlay degree that approaches these two separate paths simultaneously will give students another option and take only one or two additional terms to complete," Stern said.
Stern says that with this new program, OSU should be able to triple the number of teachers it prepares, from 184 to more than 500, in just three years. He thinks the program also will align OSU strengths - technology, science and math in particular - wit h Oregon's need to strengthen those areas of education.
Ron Adams, dean of OSU's College of Engineering, is an enthusiastic supporter of the concept.
"I give the concept high marks - both for potential impact on schools and creative use of OSU's talents," Adams said. "It will enable us to capitalize on the strengths of the entire campus and send students with a variety of backgrounds into Oregon class rooms, where good teachers are in high demand."
The education overlay degree has some precedent at OSU. It is modeled after the university's population "International Degree," where students also seek two simultaneous degrees. The international degree requires students to immerse themselves in another culture, either by studying in a different country or engaging in a similar experience in the U.S.
"Students like the experience and the career options it gives them," Stern said. "It is a rigorous undertaking, but students embrace the challenge because they see the rewards."
Stern said the education overlay also is envisioned as a rigorous challenge that would have four elements - practical internship experiences in schools, or communities and workplaces; innovative courses on teaching and learning; preparation of work sampl es and portfolios; and a multicultural experience that would ensure that all graduates are especially skilled in working with students of different cultures.
Students could begin working on the new degree at any Oregon community college, or as early as their freshman year at OSU.
"OSU has the broadest programs in the state," Stern said, "and with such a talented student body, we have a wonderful opportunity to help meet the challenge of preparing the future teacher workforce."
Stern, who was named dean of the OSU School of Education earlier this year, said the overlay degree is one of several initiatives the school is focusing on. Others include:
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Sam Stern, 541-737-6392