When the federal Department of Education went looking for ideas on how to prepare teachers in early November, one of the places it sought out was Butler University’s College of Education.
After the nationwide call for teacher preparation programs to submit innovative practices that have the potential for growth, Butler became the first Indiana school to be invited to present at a Teach to Lead Preparation Summit. From nearly 100 submissions, 17 teams were invited to the early-November summit. Participants spent two days in sessions aimed at identifying obstacles and solutions for spreading innovative best practices in teacher preparation.
Associate Professor of Education Shelly Furuness, along with Pike Master Practitioner and co-teacher Rick Mitchell, led the Butler contingent, which shared how ongoing University-School Partnership with Pike Township Schools supports a cycle of professional development benefiting both pre-service and in-service teachers.
The Butler message to DC was clear: When teacher-educators and school districts are able to work together, they can prepare the kinds of teachers that schools need.
Kaija Bole ’17, a math-education double major from suburban Chicago, also represented Butler at the summit, along with Amanda Huffman BS ‘12, MS ’16. In fall 2015, Huffman, as part of her master’s thesis research, was able to develop a curriculum based on gaps she knew existed from her own preparation at Butler. She used her prep period once a week to provide an hour-long workshop to the Math Education majors focused specifically on methods for teaching complex mathematics.
Huffman’s work represents a model of teacher leadership, Furuness said.
“She was an excellent pre-service teacher who was hired by Pike Township after completing her student teaching with the district,” Furuness said. “She immediately began participating in ongoing professional development opportunities made possible by the Butler-Pike Partnership. As a novice teacher, she continued to gain both content and pedagogical knowledge from Butler faculty members.”
The Butler students loved their experience, but Huffman’s prep period changed this academic year. She was unable to devote time to teaching future teachers like Bole.
Bole is lucky—Huffman is her practicum mentor, and Bole will be student-teaching in the Math Department at Pike High School under Huffman. But none of the other math education majors will have the opportunity to experience the math methods workshop because of scheduling logistics.
“I wish we could be doing what she did last year,” Bole said.
Furuness said this is the problem Butler is trying to solve: How to make sure teacher-leaders like Huffman have the time and resources to continue to work with future teachers.
Bole said after spending three days at the summit and comparing Butler’s teacher education to other programs, she’s convinced that Butler is serving as a model—through its partnerships with school districts such as Pike and Indianapolis Public Schools and the way it prepares students to teach.
The proof, she said, is in the College of Education’s 100 percent placement rate for its graduates.
“To hear about other programs, it made me realize how special we are here,” she said. “We’re doing great things.”