Program nominated again for national teacher ed award

For the second consecutive year, 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 program, better 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.

News of WCU’s status as a finalist comes just three months after the university and SUTEP received 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 in February.

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.

“Christa McAuliffe is well-known for saying ‘I touch the future. I teach,’” said Michael Dougherty, dean of WCU’s College of Education and Allied Professions. “At Western, we believe that, by working hand in hand with our public school partners, we are touching the future by developing and nurturing the high-quality teachers preparing the young people who represent the future of our region, our state and our nation.”

Established in 1997 as one of 14 such partnerships in North Carolina, SUTEP has formal agreements with 87 schools in 17 WNC school systems and informal partnerships with the remaining school systems and charter schools in the region, said Ruth McCreary , director of SUTEP since 2001.

Through the partnership, which also involves faculty members from WCU’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 WCU 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 traditional pre-service field experience for WCU’s student teachers.

The Christa McAuliffe 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 19. Award recipients will be notified by Sept. 30, and awards will be presented at the AASCU annual meeting in November.

For more information about teacher education at WCU, contact the College of Education and Allied Professions at (828) 227-7311 or visit the Web site at