Western teacher education program is recipient of national award

Western Carolina University’s College of Education and Allied Professions is recipient of a national award presented annually to recognize teacher education programs that exhibit outstanding collaboration with local school systems.

The Association of Teacher Educators presented its 2006 Distinguished Program in Teacher Education award to Western on Tuesday, Feb. 21, at the association’s annual meeting in Atlanta. Arizona State University also was a finalist for the top honor given by ATE.

Western won the award for its teacher preparation program that features ongoing collaboration with school systems across Western North Carolina through the School-University Teacher Education Partnership. SUTEP is part of Western’s effort to improve the academic achievement of students in all grade levels by providing assistance to educators at each step in their development – when they are student teachers, when they first enter the teaching profession, and when they are in the middle of their careers and are seeking additional professional development.

“Receiving this prestigious national award is certainly an important validation of our mission to prepare high-quality teachers for North Carolina ‘s public schools,” said Michael Dougherty, dean of the College of Education and Allied Professions at Western. “As much as this award means to us in the teacher education program, however, the bigger reward comes from knowing that our graduates are making a real difference in the lives of young people, and that our faculty members are making a real difference in the lives of our teachers.”

Dougherty called the award “a strong endorsement” of the region’s public schools and their involvement in the university’s teacher preparation program. “We have a saying at Western that ‘it takes a partnership to prepare a teacher,’” he said. “By working closely with our school partners, we strive to prepare teachers who can help all students learn to a high level of academic achievement. We call it a ‘partnership for performance.’”

Established in 1997 as one of 14 partnerships in North Carolina, SUTEP has formal agreements with 80 schools in 17 WNC school systems and informal partnerships with the remaining school systems and charter schools in the region.

Through the partnership, which also involves faculty members from Western’s College of Arts and Sciences, educators from local systems help provide a “real-world classroom” perspective to students in the university’s teacher education program. Teachers serve as clinical faculty, co-teaching selected courses with Western instructors in an effort to blend theory and practice, and as cooperating teachers working with faculty members on education research projects. Local school systems also provide pre-service field experience for Western’s student teachers – an activity that had been taking place long before the formal partnership began.

“Western was founded as a teacher education institution, and preparing highly qualified teachers has always been among the hallmarks of this university,” said Chancellor John W. Bardo. “That responsibility has become even more critical because continuing prosperity for our region, state and nation must be built upon the foundation of education. We are proud of the vital role our teacher education graduates are playing in ensuring that future, and we are thrilled that our partnership with local school systems has received this significant national recognition.”

The superintendent of one of those school system partners said she is not surprised by the national recognition Western’s teacher education program is receiving.

“I am a graduate of WCU with three education degrees and am very thankful for the outstanding education I received,” said Anne Garrett, superintendent of Haywood County schools. “The faculty and staff at Western are very deserving of this prestigious award, and they provide quality teachers and administrators for our classrooms and schools in Haywood County. We have an excellent partnership with the university and have several of our staff teaching undergraduate and graduate classes.”

SUTEP also was among finalists from across the nation for last year’s Christa McAuliffe Excellence in Teacher Education Award presented annually by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities.

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

Western's teacher preparation program features ongoing collaboration with regional school systems.

Western’s teacher preparation program features ongoing collaboration with regional school systems.