Williams, MCLA announce teaching program

Williams students interested in teaching will now be able to work toward obtaining secondary teaching certification while at Williams. The College, in conjunction with the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA), will institute the Williams Program in Teaching this fall. The MCLA is licensed by the state of Massachusetts to offer teacher certification.

By offering the Williams Teaching Program, administrators hope to make teacher certification more accessible to interested students.

“I have been told that Williams students are increasingly interested in obtaining teacher certification, so I see our articulation agreement [to establish the program] as a response to a specific need,” said Elaine Collins, dean of MCLA.

Collins’ observations were echoed by President of Williams College Harry Payne.

“Many students have indicated an interest in teacher certification and frustration that the path is blocked by regulatory burdens associated with certification,” Payne said. “One mission of Williams is certainly to create great teachers, and we are making this more likely [through the Program].”

According toPayne, the Williams Program in Teaching requires students to graduate with a major in a secondary school subject such as English or math. Several courses in psychology, including adolescent psychology, are part of the program, as is a course in the foundations of education, as per state regulations.

Susan Engel, who was hired during the summer to direct the program, will teach a course in the psychology of education this spring semester to meet the foundations requirement.

Under the Program, two Winter Study courses, one on reading in a content area and one on classroom management strategies, will also be prerequisites for teacher certification. In addition to these courses, students pursuing teacher certification must spend time student teaching; the Program will offer teaching practice through course work and during Winter Study.

After graduating from Williams, students must take a seminar course at MCLA and acquire further student teaching experience. The final step in the certification process is passing the state teacher certification tests.

Payne has worked for the past couple of years along with several Williams professors and administrators at the MCLA to make the program a reality.

Engel noted that the Program was not the result of the work of one person, but a convergence of ideas and interest which added momentum to the project.

“I think a lot of people over the last several years became aware that many Williams students were interested in becoming teachers, and several of us believe that the kind of students who have succesful experiences here are exactly the kinds of teachers our public schools need,” Engel said.

Collins noted that the end results were worth the effort.

“We did not have any difficulties initiating the articulation agreement at MCLA,” she said. “Although the process leading to the articulation agreement took longer than I expected, ‘Good things come to those who wait.’”

Payne said the first five years of the program will be funded by Williams with a special set of endowed presidential funds that allow the College experiment with new programs and initiatives.

Engel said the initiation of the program comes at an ideal time.

“This couldn’t be a more perfect time for Williams to embark on a program such as this,” she said. “We are experiencing a Renaissance for making great schools to serve all kids. Many education programs haven’t gone about teacher certification the right way. We want this program to do it right.”

Engel said in order to help make the Williams Teaching Program a success, lunches will be held regularly on Tuesdays in the Dodd dining hall.

Engel said she hopes these lunches will serve as a forum for discussion of and feedback on the Williams Teaching Program, student teaching experiences, and education in general. The lunches are open to anyone interested in discussing education, not just people looking to obtain teacher certification.

Director of Public Affairs James Kolesar said the Program complements other initiatives Williams has in place to improve the College’s dedication to education.

He cited the Williams Summer Program for Teachers, which offers courses taught by Williams faculty to northern Berkshire County public school teachers at no cost. He added that Williams students also teach in the Williamstown Elementary School after-school program, called Adventures in Learning, and tutor at local schools through the America Reads program and a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Grant.

For the past several years Williams has also had a cooperative program with Mt. Greylock Regional High School and Theodore Roosevelt High School in the Bronx. The program involves student and faculty exchanges between the two high schools and student teaching opportunities at Roosevelt for Williams students during Winter Study.

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