Western’s School-University Partnership a finalist for Christa McAuliffe award

CULLOWHEE –The School-University Teacher Education Partnership at Western Carolina University is a finalist for the Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award presented annually by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

Western’s partnership, known as SUTEP, is one of six finalists from across the nation for the award, which recognizes excellence in teacher education programs. The award is named in honor of Christa McAuliffe, the school teacher who died when the space shuttle Challenger exploded shortly after liftoff in January 1986.

“At Western, we embrace the viewpoint represented by Christa McAuliffe’s famous quote, ‘I touch the future. I teach.’ We and our public school partners truly believe that we do, indeed, touch the future through the preparation and continuing development of high-quality teachers for North Carolina’s public schools,” said Michael Dougherty, dean of Western’s College of Education and Allied Professions. “We are honored to be selected as a finalist for this prestigious award. I would like to commend our faculty and staff for their dedication to excellence that resulted in this achievement. Clearly, they are making a difference.”

Established in 1997 and one of 14 such partnerships in North Carolina, Western’s SUTEP works to improve the academic achievement of students of all grade levels by providing assistance to educators at each step in their development as teachers – when they are student teachers, when they first enter the teaching profession, and when they are in the midst of their careers and are seeking additional professional development.

AASCU is focusing on the preservice component of SUTEP’s program for consideration for the McAuliffe Award. The collaborative effort is a “partnership for performance” designed to strengthen Western’s teacher education program by giving teacher education students ample preparation for the real world of teaching through insights offered by professional educators working in pre-kindergarten through 12 th -grade classrooms, Dougherty said. Those teachers serve as clinical faculty members who co-teach selected teacher preparation courses, helping to blend theory and practice.

SUTEP has formal partnership agreements with 72 schools in 15 school systems across Western North Carolina, and is engaged in informal partnerships with the remaining school systems and charter schools in the WNC region.

The Christa McAuliffe for Excellence in Teacher Education Award recognizes outstanding programs in teacher education at AASCU member institutions. AASCU institutions prepare more than 50 percent of all new teachers in the United States each year. The Christa McAuliffe Award highlights the major role that state colleges and universities play in the preparation of teachers.

Finalists for the award are asked to submit final proposals to the awards committee by June 24. Award recipients will be notified by Sept. 30, and awards will be presented at the AASCU annual meeting in November.

For more information about the SUTEP program, contact Ruth McCreary, director, at (828) 227-7312.