‘A Culmination’: Teacher Education Transformation On Display

December 15, 2023
Guests applaud student performers at the US PREP Learning Tour welcome dinner.
Guests applaud student performers at the US PREP Learning Tour welcome dinner. Photo by Sarah Wilkins.

Years of hard work, collaboration and progress were on display in November as dozens of teacher preparation faculty members from across the country gathered in America’s Finest City for the US PREP Learning Tour, hosted by San Diego State University’s College of Education.

Supported by a diverse range of foundations, state departments, and federal grants, US PREP is a national coalition aimed at training high-quality diverse teachers who are day-one ready. Since joining the coalition in 2018, SDSU has undertaken the collaborative work of transforming its general education, special education and bilingual education programs in concert with school district partners across San Diego County. 

"We came here because the leaders at San Diego State have persevered,” said Nicole Aveni, senior regional transformation specialist at the US PREP National Center. “I think what is so special about them is that collectively they are so transparent. There's no dog-and-pony show, no ‘We have it figured out, we've arrived, we're perfect.’ 

“They're a model of striving for continuous improvement and innovation.”

The three-day event kicked off Nov. 15 with a welcome dinner where Sarah Garrity, senior associate dean in COE, delivered a presentation on SDSU’s teacher preparation challenges and successes. One major example of the latter: Empowered by US PREP, SDSU launched strategic staffing partnerships with multiple schools this year, enabling teacher candidates to receive stipends for completing their student teaching by supporting an instructional need at their placement school..

Students from SDSU’s partners, Cajon Valley Union School District and San Diego School of the Creative and Performing Arts, then stole the show, providing a rousing TED talk and unforgettable dance, music and theater performances.

The following day, visitors boarded buses bound for partner school sites in San Diego, El Cajon and Chula Vista to see SDSU’s teacher candidates in action. They also observed a governance meeting with SDSU site coordinators and school district administrators discussing real problems of practice. 

“We had an activity where we asked our visitors to identify the co-teaching model that was being implemented,” Garrity said. “And it was really great, because in a lot of classrooms you went in, you couldn't tell who was the teacher and who was the teacher candidate. That was really what we wanted to see. 

“It was such an invigorating day."

Garrity expressed her gratitude to US PREP for helping to fund and organize the Learning Tour, which was attended by 350 teacher preparation leaders, faculty members, and district leaders from 10 states.

She was also particularly proud to highlight the work of SDSU’s leaders, such as School of Teacher Education Director Lynne Bercaw, Department of Special Education Chair Laura Hall and Department of Dual Language and English Learner Education Chair Sera Hernandez, as well as the school site coordinators who have spearheaded collaboration and transformation for the past five years.

“For years they’ve been in the schools building relationships with district partners and students,” Garrity said. “They deserve to be celebrated because they've been making this happen. This Learning Tour really was a culmination of their efforts.”

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