The University’s School of Education gained national recognition after being named the recipient of this year’s Exemplary Professional Development School Achievement Award from the National Association for Professional Development Schools (NAPDS) in early February.
The award acknowledges the Monmouth University Partnership, the professional development partnership that has crafted a working relationship between the University and several local P-12 schools, including Freehold Township, Hazlet, Long Branch, Manalapan-Englishtown, Middletown, Ocean, and Eatontown. It will be presented to the Department on March 10 at the NAPDS annual conference in Washington, D.C.
The objectives for the University Partnership are to increase P-12 student learning, provide great teacher preparation, provide professional development for teachers, and to innovate new practice in teacher education, according to the NAPDS award application.
Dr. John Henning, Dean of the School of Education, explained how his department met these goals. He said, “We work with teachers and administrators on professional development, meaning we help [them] become better at what they do.”
According to Henning, many new programs are being piloted within the department. A new requisite by New Jersey state law for education majors requires that students spend an extra semester student teaching in schools, meaning they will undergo a yearlong clinical internship. The University has rolled out the program early, giving students the chance to spend more time gaining experience in the classroom.
Nick Corrado, senior mathematics and secondary education student, testified to the significance of the new program. “The year-long clinical program allowed me to get a tremendous amount of extra experience in the classroom, working with students and faculty,” he said. “I was able to learn different classroom strategies and ways to engage the students from an experienced teacher before my student teaching semester started,” Corrado added.
Carlie Till, senior English and elementary education student, agreed with Corrado. She said, “The early implementation of the year-long student teaching program at the University has been the most beneficial thing in my educational career. I will graduate this May with an entire year of classroom experience in the same class, getting to see my students grow from September to April, giving me the best possible insight on how students progress throughout a full school year.”
According to Henning, the benefits of the partnership go far beyond simply polishing students’ resumes. Longtime exposure to classroom environments allows students to creatively enhance the learning experience, and build meaningful connections with their students and the school faculty.
Henning said, “When our candidates are out there, and they work closely with our professional development school partners, often they get to do special projects, because they’re out there for an extended period of time. For example, a couple of our candidates once led this blast from the past project, where they invited four senior citizens to come in and read to the students, and then the students showed them how to use email and other technologies.”
According to Till the knowledge gained from these partnership placements is unlike any learning experience on a college campus. She said, “The University’s field placements have more than prepared me to take over a classroom of my own and have left me feeling confident and excited to start my own career as a teacher. Dean Henning was instrumental in my decision to partake in this program and met with me personally to discuss the benefits, worked with my schedule as an athlete on campus, and helped make this possible for me.”
Additionally, the School of Education is taking the clinical experience a step further, by giving teacher candidates the opportunity to get paid. “We are working on a teacher residency program, which will be a paid internship for our teacher candidates. Schools hire people like substitute teachers, tutors, and remedial instructors, to perform certain services in the schools and be compensated for it,” said Henning.
The opportunity opens up a variety of doors for teacher candidates. “This will put students in a lot of diverse positions so that they can see different parts of the schools and the different professional roles that are performed; and they’d have a very good working knowledge of how schools function,” Henning added.
“By the time they go into their junior and senior years, they could have two to three years experience teaching. This is the single biggest improvement we’ve made in teacher education,” Henning added.
According to Henning, Monmouth University’s School of Education guarantees its student’s hands-on experience in the teaching field, so students will be prepared to dive into their careers immediately following graduation. “I like to tell teacher candidates that you don’t have to wait until you graduate to make a difference for students, you can do it right here while you’re at Monmouth,” he said.