Williams, in conjunction with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, will offer its students the opportunity to receive state teaching certification. The program will begin next year.
Susan Engel, currently the head of the Master of Arts Teaching Program at Bennington College, has been hired to direct this “pre-teaching” program. As Director of Education Programs, Engel, who taught at Williams previously for five years, will guide students through the certification process.
According to Professor of Philosophy Steven Gerrard, the process through which Engel will be guiding students involves taking specific courses at both Williams and MCLA. Those required courses are a foundations of education course, e.g. Psych 334 The Psychology of Education, an adolescent psychology course taught by a Williams professor, two special Winter Study courses taught by MCLA professors and, upon graduation from Williams, a semester-long teaching seminar at MCLA. Practice teaching will be incorporated into all of these courses.
According to President of the College Harry C. Payne the teaching program has been in the works for about three years. “Almost since I arrived,” Payne said, “I have had discussions with various faculty and students about this.”
Dean of Academic Studies at MCLA Elaine Collins played an integral role in helping to get the teaching program off the ground. “Williams,” Collins said, “expressed an interest in working with us to get students certified, and we’ve done our best to do that.”
Collins is Williams’s link at MCLA. “My role in the program will be to make sure that students meet the state regulations for certification and to make the transition a smooth one.”
Like the rest of the architects of the Williams teaching program, Collins was enthusiastic and optimistic about the program. “I think that this is a wonderful opportunity for students from both schools. Everybody is excited, especially our president and myself.”
Gerrard expressed similar excitement about working with MCLA. “I see this program as a first step in Williams’s relationship with MCLA.”
Engel will be heading up the teaching program at Williams. According to Gerrard, in fact, Engel was the last piece of the puzzle.
“Susan’s role as advisor,” Gerrard said, “is essential to the program. For example, an advisor is needed so that students can incorporate such things as Junior Year Abroad and Winter Study courses into the certification process.”
According to Engel, her role as director will be to “help students take what they are learning and get them to think about how that shapes them as a teacher.”
Engel described the goals of the program as twofold. “First,” Engel said, “we want to create a process through which students can get certified. Secondly, we want to create an atmosphere at Williams in which students think about teaching, schools and issues involving education.”
Gerrard expressed similar thoughts about the program. “We want to encourage students to teach. It’s a wonderful way to put the philosophy of the liberal arts into practice.”
Payne also sees a relationship between the liberal arts and teaching. “Somehow, although a liberal arts college does not do professional training, helping students to become teachers seems special. We have an obligation to perpetuate the educational species, as it were.”
Talk of establishing a teaching program at Williams has been around for many years. “I checked the faculty minutes from 20 years ago,” Gerrard said, “and I found mention of setting up some type of teaching program. During my six years at Williams the topic has been discussed frequently.”
Gerrard believes that faculty interest in the teaching program will provide an array of opportunities for the program to grow. “There are really no limits, where we want to go with this program.”
In particular, Gerrard hoped that an education cluster, i.e., a group of interdisciplinary courses dealing with the subject of education, could be developed. “We will work on developing an Education Cluster similar to the interdisciplinary Leadership and Jewish Studies programs that will begin in the Fall 1998 Semester.”
In addition to the faculty’s interest in establishing a teaching program, students have long expressed interest in teaching. “The push for some type of teaching program,” Engel pointed out, “has really come from the students. When I was a professor at Williams I had students come to me all the time asking about how they could get into teaching.”
A large percentage of Williams graduates are involved in the field of education. In fact, many recent graduates have gone on to teach in private schools, which do not require teachers to be certified.
“By making it easier for students to get certified, we can produce teachers that can teach at both public and private institutions.”
Payne also noted that Williams students have long engaged themselves in teaching/tutoring while at Williams. “We have long had the Roosevelt High School connection, and more recently adventures in learning at the local elementary school.”
When told about the planned new teaching program students generally seemed enthusiastic and interested.
“I think its a great idea,” David Glendinning ’99 said, “I know plenty of people that are interested in teaching, but who don’t have a clue as to how to get certification.”
Other students felt similarly about the program. “Education,” Matthew Watkins ’01 commented, “is fundamental to our society. Anything that promotes it can only have positive effects.”
Archie Coope ’00 added, “Hey, I’d definitely be interested. Where do I sign up?”
Besides the push from students and faculty to get a program in place, Gerrard described Payne as the driving force behind the new teaching program. “President Payne’s desire to see this program developed has been the deciding factor in getting it done.” Collins and Engel both echoed this sentiment.
Payne, however, preferred to defer the credit to Gerrard. “Professor Gerrard,” Payne said, “deserves enormous credit for having the wit and perseverance to see this to a successful conclusion.”
The key organizers of the program all agreed that it took a tremendous amount of hard work and perseverance to make the teaching program a reality.
Payne’s push for the teaching program stems out of his concern for public policy and civic engagement. “I am interested in civic engagement in all ways,” Payne said, “in all of us seeing how our lives intersect with public concerns. The many debates and panels in Chapin are one instance. Greater college support for community service another. Public school teaching is our next venture.”
Speaking of his vision for the teaching programÃs future Payne commented, “My hope is that the students who have expressed an interest will see this through. This is a five-year experiment to see if the interest really matches the resources we will have to commit. A lot now depends on finding out if the interest is as deep and broad as we hoped, and if the program is, in fact, manageable in a Williams schedule.”
According to Payne, Gerrard and Engel, the new teaching program is part of a general initiative to create, as Engel put it, “mental space on campus to for thinking about education.” The Fall 1998 Convocation will deal with topic of education. The speaker is Thomas W. Payzant ’62, Superintendent of Boston Public Schools.
Information sessions about the teaching p
rogram will be held during registration period in the Fall 1998 semester. Literature about the program will be made available.