University of Mobile School of Education
Inspiring young children and teenagers to learn on a daily basis is just one of the priceless accomplishments of talented, caring teachings in our school systems today.
To these educators, this responsibility is more than just a job - it is a calling that requires ample preparation and experience. In the University of Mobile School of Education, this preparation goes beyond the required "classroom-ready" standards and focuses on a circle of caring that challenges teachers to take a personal interest in the success of every student.
Dr. Sue Gober, director of professional laboratory experiences and professor of education, said the "circle of caring" starts in the college classroom.
"It's about relationships," she said. "We believe that building relationships comes first, then the learning occurs. Learning occurs in relationships. If you genuinely care about the student as a person, then he or she will learn to care about you. When students care about you, they don't want to disappoint you and will work really hard. Students feel the caring, and they love that my door is always open to come in and talk. They don't need to make an appointment."
This concept is based on her belief that teaching should be sincere and that it is important to take a personal interest in students' success. Gober not only practices this in the classroom, but is also known to attend her students' baseball or softball games and regularly saves newspaper articles for them in which they are featured.
"Isn't that what Jesus did on earth?" she continued. "He built relationships. Our role is to do the same."
This is a common theme among all faculty in the School of Education, and it is a model that students are encouraged to take with them into their own classrooms when they graduate.
"The University of Mobile School of Education is unique for two main reasons - the personal attention provided by the faculty and staff and the abundant opportunities for practical, in-school experiences," said Sara Becky Spain
, a 2011 graduate in Early Childhood and Elementary Education. "Not a day goes by in my current job that I do not attribute some skill that I use to one or both of these facts. I am thankful to have had professors who not only took time to plan meaningful classes, but who made themselves available outside of class to answer questions or provide advisement. In fact, many of the faculty members who have guided me throughout my education are still guiding and encouraging me today."
As Miss University of Mobile 2010 and a member of Sounds of Mobile in the Center for Performing
Arts, Spain was involved in many activities during her years at UMobile. She is currently teaching kindergarten at an elementary school in Brentwood, TN.
"I am so thankful that the School of Education provided opportunities throughout my coursework to visit a myriad of schools for in-school experiences," She continued. "By being immersed in a variety of school settings, I learned how to adapt and communicate in diverse situations. When I share about my experiences at UMobile with my coworkers, they are astounded to hear about the opportunities I had. I simply smile and say, 'There's really no place like it.'"
Dr. Peter Kingsford, dean of the School of Education, agreed that there is great value in field experience and says UMobile is requiring college students to spend much more time in the schools and at an earlier stage in their college career.
"We have a heavy emphasis on spending time in the schools," said Kingsford. "People need to understand that this major is not easy. Most students come here because it is a calling. We get them into the schools early in their sophomore year to help them make sure this is what they want to do. We don't want them to wait three years until their student teaching experience to find out this is not the career for them."
Students must document over 200 hours of field experience before their student teaching begins. Gober has the responsibility of placing each of these students in a variety of schools.
"This experiential learning definitely helps our students become 'classroom ready,'" said Gober. "Before they graduate, our students have the real-world training they need to succeed."
According to Kingsford, this experience includes everything from observation to assisting students with assignments to actually teaching lessons.
"When their student teaching time begins in their senior year, they are more prepared to take over the class," explained Kingsford. "For four of the 18 weeks of the student teaching semester, the student teachers are totally responsible for the planning and instruction. Our student teachers become part of the faculty, even going to faculty meetings and PTA events."
Kingsford has been teaching at the University of Mobile for the past 15 years and has been dean since 2004. Since he has been at UMobile, the School of Education has added a night program for undergraduate adult students and become the only college in the area to offer a program for Head Start. This program allows Head Start teachers to earn a bachelor of science degree in Early Childhood Education in order to fulfill a government-mandated requirement. The first class to graduate in the Head Start program will be in May 2012.
In addition to program enhancements, Kingsford has also helped facilitate a heavy emphasis on the use of technology in the classroom. Stephanie Hulon, assistant professor of education, teaches UMobile students how to incorporate this technology into elementary and high school classrooms. Among the technology that is emphasized includes teacher blogs, utilizing smart boards, video, and internet resources.
"Twenty-first century teachers need to know how to effectively use technology in the classroom," said Hulon. "This means that teachers are using technology tools to encourage collaboration, to challenge students to think critically, to engage stuents in problem solving, and to foster meaningful learning experiences for all students."
The University of Mobile School of Education offers majors in Early Childhood Education,
Elementary Education, Human Performance and Exercise Science (HPES), and Athletic Training. Teacher certification is also available for Elementary, Early Childhood, and secondary education majors in the fields of biology, English language arts, history, mathematics, social sciences, usic (K-12), and HPES (K-12). While Kingsford said the largest area of growth is in the Early Childhood area which covers 4K through 3rd grade, many students are choosing to double major in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, which certifies teachers through grade six.
"By adding only six more hours of classes, students can earn a degree in both Early Childhood and Elementary Education," he said. "This makes them more marketable."
Faculty also encourage students to continue with school to earn their master's degree right after graduation, rather than waiting. Students may pursue a master's degree in Early Childhood, Elementary Education or a combination of the two. An alternative graduate program is also available for students who majored in something other than education, but have now decided they would like to teach.
"Principals prefer to hire teachers with master's degrees, and it also results in higher pay," explained Kingsford.
Though he has seen many changes over the years, Kingsford said the favorite part of his job is still graduation day.
"It really chokes me up a little bit watching those students at graduation," he said. "Each one of them is a story - I know the struggles they have gone through over the last four years and then all of a sudden they graduate cum laude. It really makes an impact on you."
Kingsford credits the success of the education program to the quality faculty, who are all former classroom teachers who bring a wealth of experience to the college classroom.
"We eat lunch together every day and share stories of students. It is more than just teaching in the classroom, our faculty get personally involved," Kingsford said.
This approach definitely seems to be working. The State Board of Education has rated UMobile's School of Education with a "4.0 A" for the last four years, the highest ranking possible. These high standards are translated into successful graduates.
Former Miss UM and 2010 graduate Jaye Herrod
began teaching elementary music at Saraland Elementary after graduation and was named Teacher of the Year during her second year of teaching. She currently lives in North Carolina where she teaches third grade during the day and sixth grade chorus, musical theatre, and piano after school, while attending seminary classes in the evening.
"The University of Mobile School of Education thoroughly equipped me to be an effective teacher by encouraging me to set high standards for myself," said Herrod. "They emphasized the value of godly character and a good work ethic, which sets you apart in most school environments. At UMobile, I was taught to change lives to change the world, and as a teacher, I am privileged to do that daily."
The caring portrayed through faculty in the School of Education comes full circle as UMobile's graduates enter the workforce not only "classroom ready," but ready for all life has to offer.