Feb. 18, 2011

Teacher certification to remain at Cornell

The pathway to teacher certification will remain open to Cornell students, despite the phased closure of the Department of Education, which was announced in October.

Months of consultations with faculty, staff and students have culminated in a strategy that will not only enable current students to earn the degrees intended upon their enrollment, but will allow future students to pursue teacher certifications in specialized topics across the Cornell curriculum, including agricultural science, earth science, biology, chemistry and physics.

Additionally, the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) has announced its intention to hire two lecturers in agricultural and science education to assist with teaching and advising.

It will also maintain the popular education minor, which is the route most undergraduate students follow when pursuing a career in teaching, and will continue with the scheduled reaccreditation of its teacher preparation program, Cornell Teacher Education, through the Teacher Education Accreditation Council.

Under the new structure, students interested in science teaching careers will complete their science major and then continue with courses in the education minor, finishing with a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) that can be completed in two additional semesters.

Incoming freshmen and transfer students are also being encouraged to apply to the agricultural science major, with a concentration in education.

Meanwhile, faculty from the Department of Education will be integrated into other departments, a move that is expected to foster new collaborations and generate greater access to grants, laboratory and instructional resources.

"Although the decision to close the Department of Education was difficult, it has opened the way for the development of a more effective structure to better serve our students and stakeholders," said Kathryn Boor, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

"The new teacher preparation program will be more closely aligned with other CALS and Cornell departments, allowing for more cross-fertilization between agriculture and science content, as well as pedagogy," Boor added. "Many departments are eager for these faculty members to join their ranks and contribute in meaningful ways."

Cathy Jordan Longley-Cook, who received her MAT in education with a focus in earth science in 2005 and now works as a teacher in a school near Boston, said she believes the Cornell program's focus on content-area teacher preparation is one of its major strengths.

"I was educated as a scientist and a teacher, not just a teacher," she said. "It was invaluable to learn about classroom management, lesson planning, literacy and education philosophy through the lens of the science classroom, because it really is different from other subjects."

"What makes us proud of our program is having bright, motivated students with deep content knowledge, who understand political and social contexts, global and local issues, and the ability to connect research to practice, including scientific and education research," said Barbara Crawford, associate professor of education and director of graduate studies in the field of education. "As faculty members we believe these qualities set our Cornell teacher preparation program apart from others."

Danielle Sanok '13 said the undergraduate curriculum has given her the opportunity to grow outside of the normal contexts of a typical education program. "Agriculture education has exposed me to new passions such as leadership development, animal science and horticulture, as well as new learning strategies, traveling and more," Sanok said.

Stacey Shackford is a staff writer at the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.