Making Teachers and Education Better

Thu, 2013-11-21 04:17 pm

For many young graduates, teaching is a launching pad to successful jobs in policy, social services, and business. But too many people are ignoring teaching’s potential as a career in itself, says Ashley Schaefer, the College’s Lawrence S. Pigeon Director of Careers in Education Professions. Often, young teachers exit the profession just as they begin to excel at it, leaving behind an open position and classroom instability.

That’s why Grinnell, along with the University of Chicago and Amherst College, has started a program designed to help students think about the longterm possibilities of teaching. In addition to courses offered through the College’s education department, the program will provide internship opportunities, speakers, and panels to encourage students to commit to a teaching career. All three schools’ programs are funded through gifts from Penny Bender Sebring ’64 and her husband Charles Ashby Lewis.

By helping students build connections and skills through the program, Schaefer hopes to change not only the perception of teaching as a worthwhile endeavor, but also the trajectory of students’ career paths. “Today, teaching is often one of the last things that students consider doing,” she says. “We want to make it one of the first things they consider.”

Rural Education Summit

Conference registration is open for the program's first conference, the Rural Education Summit, April 4-5, 2014. It is open to all K-12 and college educators, as well as undergraduate and graduate students.  Some of the topics include: school consolidation issues, teacher recruitment, the growth of technology in the classroom, learning and teaching in an Indian Settlement School, and helping minority students and those with disabilities succeed at rural schools.

Kai Schafft, Penn State University's Center on Rural Education and Communities, will offer the keynote lecture at 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 4.  The keynote is free and open to the public. Those wishing to attend the conference itself need to register. Early registration ends March 10, 2014; prices will increase $10 after then.

About the Careers in Education Professions Program

Penny Bender Sebring ’64, a life trustee, and her husband, Charles Ashby Lewis, have long believed that improving public pre-K–12 education is one of our nation’s most pressing needs. “It’s both a social justice issue and an economic competitiveness issue,” Lewis says. Sebring and Lewis think that professionalizing education, which is dependent upon attracting top talent and obtaining higher status, is one of the keys to improvement. Sebring co-founded the University of Chicago Consortium on Chicago School Research and Lewis is also deeply involved in education improvement.

In countries with the best educational outcomes, top college students are encouraged to pursue teaching as a career, Lewis notes. That is not true in the United States.

Attracting top talent to teaching — as well as to administration, educational research, and policy — is why Sebring and Lewis recently created and initially funded the Grinnell Careers in Education Professions program. The program will provide access to numerous opportunities to help students begin early exploration of education as a career option and then help those interested in pursuing it.

Sebring and Lewis have recently helped start companion programs at the University of Chicago and Amherst College.