Improving Teachers' Training Experiences

At SUNY Fredonia’s College of Education, programs in general education and special education are merged. It’s an unusual setup, says Kathleen Magiera, associate professor of education, and a worthwhile one. “It’s better for students and it’s better for school districts in need.”

Magiera and her colleague, associate professor Rhea Simmons, have been awarded a $500,000 grant from the US Department of Education to improve their unique teacher preparation program. Theirs was one of only 12 grants awarded last year.

The need for special education teachers is high, especially in New York, Magiera says. So the program, and the enhancements to educational programs enabled by the new funding, will make Fredonia graduates all that much more attractive to employers. “Some districts won’t even talk to you unless you have both certifications,” Magiera says.

Educating teachers is one way SUNY contributes to a seamless educational pipeline in New York. Fredonia may well be a trendsetter, as other schools are left struggling over how to meet federal mandates that teachers must be prepared to address the needs of all students, Simmons says.

In addition to teaching general and special education at the same time, Fredonia graduates a large number of teachers each year and its location provides a good test case for placing dually trained teachers in rural school districts.

New efforts are in place to collaborate with rural schools to better prepare teachers for those settings and improve the chances that they will stay. “Living and teaching in a community is the total picture,” Simmons says.

Fredonia will also offer professional development opportunities for working teachers and will improve mentoring programs for new teachers.

 

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