By Lucielle Wones

One of the core beliefs here of the Oregon State College of Education is to prepare the next generation of teachers. But within the college is a group of students taking this preparation to the next level. Evan Walker is the current president of the Aspiring Educator’s Club at Oregon State University, and he leads the club along with fellow executive officers Stephanie Hasan, Sarah Connolly, Sidney Shaw, Ryan Hannah, Brenna Beyer, and Annuka Brown. The club is also advised by Karla Rockhold, the Career Advisor for the College of Education. 

As a founding member, Evan was there just last year shortly after the club was created, with the goal in mind to have an extracurricular resource for the students in the College of Education. According to Evan, in the beginning the club “didn’t have one specific purpose in mind. It was more of a multitude of things.” Their biggest goal at first was just to give students a network to help them succeed in college. The club had resources to help clarify paths to graduation and input from older members to help the younger members forward in their collegiate careers and beyond. Evan inherited his position from the former president, and he is now the club’s senior member, as “the founding members are all in their student teaching phase right now, so they’re very busy.” 

However, Evan has done a fantastic job of running the club this far. Over the last year, the club has grown tremendously. They sent 5 students to a retreat for early educators put on by the Oregon Educators Association in February 2019, and have been funded and supported not just by the OEA, but by the National Educators Association as well. Members of the club have even traveled to national conferences as representatives for the club as well.

In the future, Evan hopes to see an expanded interest in his club and to draw in more and more students from the college of education to share in the multitude of experiences he’s already had. Part of their plans for this year was to connect themselves with AEC chapters at the nearby Linn-Benton Community College and University of Oregon, so that their already strong network of connections grows even stronger as these aspiring educators prepare to enter the workforce for the first time. Thanks to the great work by Evan and the other founding members of the club, they’ll all be prepared and ready for whatever the future has in store for them.

By Colin Cole

Hello everyone! My name is colin cole. I’m a shelter volunteer at Heartland Humane, a KBVR DJ, runner, vegan, poet(?), recent cat dad, and LEEP PhD candidate. I first came to Corvallis in 2012 (wow time flies) to pursue an M.A. in Latino Studies which, unfortunately, has since been discontinued (more support for world languages, anyone?). Prior to that, I taught high school Spanish and creative writing in California, and completed my undergraduate studies in Education at the Universidad San Francisco de Quito in Ecuador. Currently, my research focuses on Hip Hop, language use, and identities in the lives of Latinx youth in Oregon. 

Throughout my time as a PhD student, Heartland Humane, Benton County’s open-door animal shelter, has also been a refuge for me and many other volunteers. Nothing is better for a theory induced headache than a half hour of fetch or a walk through Avery Park with a shelter dog whose tail wags at the sight of you. And wag they do! The majority of my time at Heartland is spent with the dogs, working on socializing, leash skills, or my favorite… runs. When time management is difficult, it helps to combine volunteering and working out, and if I feel like taking a few days off, the dogs keep me accountable. 

At the end of my shifts, I’ll often spend time with the cats, giving head scratches and belly rubs. There’s a different type of calm that comes from spending time with the cats and listening to that purr (cat people  where you at?). On days where life is stressful, socializing cats provides another level of catharsis and tranquility.

Due to Covid-19, the shelter is currently closed to the public, though they continue to do fosters and adoptions by appointment. Unfortunately, the Heartland Thriftshop on 3rd St., which provides approximately 30% of Heartland Humane’s annual Budget, has closed (though they are selling items online!). In addition, donations are down as many folks in the community now face challenges due to the pandemic. 

While I am adjusting to shelter-in-place measures and a barrage of Zoom meetings, I’m fortunate to still have contact with the animals and incredible staff. As many of us are spending the majority of our time at home, physically distanced from others, it is an opportune moment to foster or adopt responsibly. I just happened to be seduced by Mamba, now Sombrita, in January and she has made life at home more comforting, entertaining, and enjoyable.     

For those of us in academia, there are many benefits to getting outside of our heads and grounding ourselves in the present, and there are no better teachers than animals. There are many ways to become involved and support Heartland. Donations to Heartland are tax-deductible and can be made at heartlandhumane.org. Any amount helps. If you would rather help another way, adopting during this time of social-distancing can be, as human-animal bonds always are, mutually beneficial. Fostering could also be something to consider later in the Summer once kitten season arrives. Or at the very least, we can value our essential workers and rethink our relationship to animals.

When you boil it down, counseling is all about one thing: helping people. That was the principle that the Counseling program here at the Oregon State University College of Education was founded over 100 years ago. Now, all these years later, dedicated faculty like Cass Dykeman keep that principle alive and well.

Cass has a long history with education himself; he went to school for counseling for two years at the University of Virginia, and before that was a counselor at schools around Washington State. For the past 20 years, he’s been with the College of Education as a professor and resource for the future generations of counselors.

One of his current projects is focused on the area of Corpus Linguistics, a form of the study of language that utilizes chunks of real-world text to look for patterns and meanings. Currently, he’s seeing millennial students get invested in the project in an interesting way. “Students want to research where they live, and for many students, that was online,” Cass said. “So we’ve been looking at personality and mental health issues online.” The examples he gave were from pro-self-harm forums and sites where people with depression can share their struggles with one another.

Cass also had a lot to say about the history of OSU’s counseling program and what makes it so unique compared to other programs around the country. The program is over 100 years old, seeing its start around the beginning of World War I. “We [as counselors] are always there in response to a national crisis,” Cass said of the significance of counseling in Oregon. “The program grew during both World Wars because it needed to. Now, with all the cultural and economic shifts, it is the counselor’s job to be there to help people work through it all.” The program also is the only one in the country that requires a manuscript-style dissertation. This is in order to better prepare students for the future; according to Cass, “these manuscripts are intended for print in academic journals, and are common in the hard sciences. By requiring these manuscripts, students instantly have a document that is meant to be published, so they get a jump start on their career.”

Cass also spoke of the changes he wanted to see come to the College of Education. First, he spoke of the new OSU Portland Center; “In 1932, the College of Education would take monday night trips up to Lincoln High School in Portland Oregon to teach there. Now, with the Portland Center offering College of Education classes, it’s something of a return to our roots.”

Cass also recounted a memory of his, from around a decade ago. “I was lecturing on a new topic, and this was around the time that smartphones and google had become more prominent tools. So this student googles my lecture topic and starts to ask very specific, insightful questions into the topic I wasn’t prepared for. I realized that I had been replaced by google in the role of ‘conveyer of knowledge,’ but if I wasn’t the conveyer of knowledge, than what should I be? I began to change my approach to teaching to reflect that and keep myself relevant as a human resource in the more knowledgeable world. Having to continually change your teaching style is part of what keeps the job fun and fresh!”

And it should be fun, Cass noted. “The most important thing you need as a teacher is that you have to love to teach and you have to love your students. If you don’t love what you’re doing, your students will pick up on that right away.” This carries over to being a counselor as well as an educator. “There are plenty of personalities that make for a good counselor. You just need an intrinsic love for people who are struggling; skills, we can train, but that empathy is mandatory.” 

Cass hopes to continue to teach and help the College of Education grow for years to come. Recently, he was awarded the Outstanding Educator Award from the Western Association for Counselor Education and Supervision (WACES). He made clear that education does not exist in a vacuum. “This award serves as an affirmation that we’re doing something right in the program. We’re on the right track, and though we’re always adjusting to keep it that way, it’s good to see that what we’re doing is making a difference.” That’s his goal for the future, too; to keep changing so the college can continue to teach students in new, efficient an exciting ways. “It’s like a puzzle! It’s a fun challenge that’s so worth it.” Cass is also the top advisor in the College of Education and the 4th highest in OSU history, having advised 37 dissertations in his time at OSU. About this achievement, he said “I feel lucky to teach at OSU for this university draws the highest quality of doctoral students. My advisees and I are helping to shape the cutting edge of quantitative research design in Counselor Education.”

Keri Pilgrim-Ricker smiling and waving as she addresses a gymnasium of students.
Keri Pilgrim-Ricker

So often a common thread emerges amongst teachers: I didn’t know I wanted to teach until it was right in front of me. Of course, this is not always the case. Some people know from middle school (or even earlier) that their careers and lives will be bound to teaching in some respect or another. Others, like 2019 Oregon Teacher of the Year recipient Keri Pilgrim-Ricker, discover their profession through a passion and a need to inspire that passion in others.

“I fell in love with ecology,” she says of her time as an undergraduate, “It’s research and inquiry driven and it’s always asking questions about how things interact.” She wanted to be immersed in science, she wanted to ask the questions, yet she didn’t want to constrain her focus – and that is when she found teaching.

“Teaching,” Pilgrim-Ricker says, “has filled that niche for me, in that there is still this crazy intersectionality of variables, but the variables are now [my] students and their lives and their contexts.”

In pursuing her passion, in acquiring knowledge and experience, and finally in utilizing this expertise and turning it into curriculum, Pilgrim-Ricker never feels limited. “I still get to tell rich stories about science and I still get to be able to use inquiry skills to be able to figure out how to best serve my students.”

Now, as Oregon Teacher of the Year, she perceives her challenges in a new light, a bigger and even brighter light. Pilgrim-Ricker says of her honor, “I quickly realized that this award isn’t really so much an award but a position, and it’s been phenomenally eye-opening to be able to connect with other state educators of the year, to create this cohort, to be able to explore the difference in education systems and policies from state-to-state.” This was her chance to not only be inspired but also to inspire, this time on a whole new level. She sees the award as an opportunity to use her skills and influence to change the way we look at education and how we support students.

“I think education is a way of empowering voice. Not only does it inform how you say and what you say, but you have this unique ability as an educator to bring forward confidence in your students to help them see themselves as problem solvers and to conquer complex tasks and challenging moments in their lives.”  

Pilgrim-Ricker received her undergraduate degrees in biology and animal science from Fresno State, she went on to Perdue to obtain her masters. After graduating and trying to figure out her next step, she started to realize the importance and excitement of not only her own education but of educating future generations. A friend suggested she look into the Masters in Science Education program at Oregon State. “I drove out to Corvallis,” she says, “everybody was friendly and it was amazing and you could walk and bike everywhere.” Suddenly, everything fit together – the program, the school, the space. For Pilgrim-Ricker, Oregon State fit like a snug pair of rain boots.

“If you are going to become an educator, especially a content area specialist, go learn educational pedagogy in a place that really knows your content because it really frames your context.” Oregon State boasts of a College of Education, whose innovative programs and distinguished faculty are celebrated nation-wide. Combining that with the College of Science, a highly respected and cutting-edge school which draws researchers and students from around the globe, this is a university worth choosing, particularly when anticipating a career in content specialization.

Pilgrim-Ricker has remained in Oregon, currently a Career and Technical Education occupations health teacher at Churchill High School in Eugene. In this position, she uses her Master’s in Science Education to lead her students through an inventive and groundbreaking curriculum in the fields of anatomy and physiology. Still this isn’t enough. Pilgrim-Ricker knows that success, true success, is a network of teamwork.

“We need to create environments for [teachers] that are as rich and collaborative and supportive as we create for our kids” she urges. “We deserve that. We need that to be sustained. And our kids will give some of that back in return, but you need passionate adults who will hold space with you, who will be there to recognize when you are having a hard day and empathize.”

Keri Pilgrim-Ricker’s methods are unique and demanding, they make the student become an active partner in their education. They make teachers push themselves and challenges norms. As she says, “Curriculum is constant. Standards are constants. The only thing that is dynamic in education is you.”

A school is so much more than a building, it’s a space, it’s a body of students but it’s also a body of teachers. Be involved. Be engaged. Be there for each other.

Follow Pilgrim-Ricker on twitter: @keriotoy19

By Jenna Patten, Writing Student Employee, College of Education

Brett Bigham with President Obama during the White House Honors.

Brett Bigham was named Oregon State Teacher of the Year in 2014, National Education Association Foundation fellow in 2015 and 2018 and he even received White House Honors from President Obama. This was a huge and momentous time in Bigham’s life, a time to celebrate, a time to plan for the future. What Bigham didn’t expect was how this was also about to become a time of huge adversity.

 

Soon after receiving his award, Bigham’s supervisor ordered him to remain quiet about his sexual orientation when in public. But too much was at stake, and he couldn’t remain silent.

 

The Teacher of the Year award put Bigham in a position to speak up, to speak out, to be a person of inspiration and promise – which is just what he did, despite knowing his job was on the line. “I knew an openly gay Teacher of the Year would save lives. When I received White House Honors from President Obama I was interviewed by the White House International Press Corp and spoke out for the rights of the LGBT youth.”

 

Following the publication of his wedding pictures by the Oregonian website, and later being the first gay couple honored by the Rose Festival, Bigham was fired. “But my fight to get my job [back] made international news and my victory in the end showed LGBT youth that they had a champion.”

 

The commitment to helping LGBT youth emerged out of Bigham’s own experience in high school when his best friend came out to him, only to commit suicide a few days later. Such an experience changes a person forever, and Bigham knew he must do whatever he could to help prevent anything like this from happening again.

 

Becoming a teacher, inspiring his students and leading them toward acceptance was what he needed to do, saying, “Acceptance of themselves and others and caring for the environment. So many of the problems our young people face stem from not being accepted.”

 

Once being named teacher of the year, Bigham looked at his position within the classroom and within his community more carefully. “I realize there is truly no bounds to where my work can take me, and how my work can make changes in ways I never dreamed,” he says. Bigham traveled to Bangladesh in order to become a mentor to teachers who have never had one before. He founded #GlobalSPED on Twitter, an international forum for special education teachers to interact and connect with each other in ways they couldn’t before.

 

Bigham says, “My awards gave me the platform to pull these people together.” And yet, bringing people together, spreading awareness, promoting acceptance began well before he was named teacher of the year.

 

Brett Bigham with some of his former students.

As a special education teacher for much of his career, Bigham saw the kids in his classroom with severe disabilities needing an ally. “They are the kids who I wanted to stand up for because nobody else was doing it… They win because they have a champion.”

 

This was his gift. He saw himself as someone who could open the doors for those who previously only saw closed doors. “It is as if every skill I have has blended into this new role of education leader that I have become.”

 

Bigham started at community college, and during his sophomore year decided to enroll at Oregon State. He had friends at many different universities, but it was seeing those becoming actively involved in the school, and caring about their education and the community that drove him to Oregon State.

 

A professor in the theater department gave Bigham his first experience teaching, and it ended up being an experience which changed his life and steered the course of his entire career. Looking back at his time at Oregon State first as a journalism student, and now as a Teacher of the Year, he jokes, “Little did I know that I would give up writing to become a teacher, and that by being named Teacher of the Year, I would suddenly be writing more speeches and articles than ever before.”

 

In hindsight, Bigham says, “Do not wait for ten years to get woke or else you will find yourself looking deep inside with the worry that you did not do right by those brown and black kids who thought the world of you.” Bigham continues, “You have to step into your first classroom knowing those kids need something different from you and you had better know what it is.”

 

Brett Bigham with Stephen Hawking.

If he can give one piece of advice to a new teacher it is to learn, to adjust, to be flexible, and to find the best mentor in the building. Bigham stresses, “Trust me when I say that relationship will be one of the most important ones in your entire life.”

 

As Bigham has exemplified, being inspired and being an inspiration changes lives.

 

 

 

 

 

Life is always full of obstacles, but overcoming these obstacles in order to achieve your dreams is what really defines a person. Teaching isn’t always the most profitable of careers, but it is often the most pivotal – not only for the students but for the teacher as well.

 

For Carmen Lawson, teaching is a momentous charge. “I’m not going to be a doctor, I wasn’t born to catalog rock samples from Mars, and I definitely will never be in the Oval Office. Something I can do is teach future politicians to be tolerant and loving to all cultures. I can teach future engineers data collecting skills that they need to persevere for travel to new corners of space and the ocean floor. And I can teach future doctors and scientists to problem solve tirelessly until diseases have cures.”

 

Yet, as Lawson works toward her MAT degree from OSU-Cascades, she encounters difficulties above and beyond the education and the training itself. Lawson faced over a $1000 in licensure fees before recently receiving the first disbursements of the Teacher Licensure Support Fund scholarship. As she says, “With all of the expenses that make up the nickels and dimes of our family budget, a great weight settles on my shoulders as I look at the difficult reality of accomplishing my goals.”

 

With the scholarship award, Lawson can take a deep breath and more easily look ahead. “Being awarded these funds helps reduce my stress level and optimize my chances of success as an OSU-Cascades student.” She can now better focus her efforts on her schooling, family and the future.

 

Within the College of Education, we are acutely aware of the financial burdens our students confront. We wish to do all that we can to help unburden them. With the day of giving and other fundraisers, we work toward helping to relieve this stress for our graduates, the future leaders and educators of our communities.

 

Every donation received goes into a general fund to help cover the demanding licensure fees, and to give our amazing students, like Dawson, the ability to concentrate on what’s most important.

 

Donate Today!

 

 

Heather Anderson doesn’t sit back and hope for success to reach her, she is an active participant in all of her successes – and she sure isn’t stopping now!

 

Anderson won the 2016 Oregon Teacher of the Year, she received the 2017 National Education Association Teaching in Excellence Award, and she is a National Board Certified Teacher who has been teaching for 18 years. However, this impressive list of achievements did not come from luck. Anderson worked hard to be recognized, and never took the easy route to achieve her goals.

 

“It was humbling and amazing to be recognized as 2016 Oregon Teacher of the Year,” she says. “The award has allowed me to work on educational policy changes in our state to help support teachers and students.”

 

But when Anderson won Oregon Teacher of the Year in 2016, she realized there wasn’t just one reason for her success, but several – and that her path to becoming the best teacher possible began very early on.

 

Born and raised in Bend, Anderson established her roots and love of education in Oregon. Not only was her mother a teacher, so was her grandmother. Today, she still lives in Bend, but now with her own family. Having a strong community and growing up with such important influences, she simply knew teaching would be her calling.

 

Anderson says, “I loved to read as a child and now I love to instill the love of reading in children as a teacher.”

 

Anderson’s father graduated from Oregon State University in 1970, and raised his daughter to be a “beaver believer” as well. When it came time for her to pick a school, it was a natural choice to attend Oregon State University. And after graduating from Bend High School in 1996, Anderson enrolled at Oregon State.

 

However, her time at Oregon State was more than just about getting a great education. Anderson swam on the swim team, and joined a sorority; she learned the importance of being a part of a team, teamwork and social participation. “I was a member of Kappa Delta sorority and that allowed me leadership opportunities and skills that have also helped me in my career.” Outside her studies at Oregon State, Anderson used her time to give back to the Corvallis community. “Volunteering in a variety of elementary schools during my education at OSU helped me to learn what it was like to be a teacher and prepared me for working in schools in different settings.”

 

Anderson launched her teaching career in Maryland, and moved back to Oregon with her husband after six years on the east coast. She later obtained her Masters of Arts in Teaching degree from George Fox University and her Graduate Certificate in Teacher Leadership from Johns Hopkins University. Continuing in her scholarship (while also teaching fulltime), Anderson is a current doctoral candidate at Walden University in the Educational EdD program.

 

As a Reading and Math Intervention teacher at Juniper Elementary in Bend, Oregon, she realizes that all of those late nights and long hours of work and study are well worth the time and effort. But even in those difficult moments she remains optimistic and says, “I stay positive on hard days by remembering my focus and the reasons I teach. I also believe that my positive outlook impacts my students and I want to be a good example for them on a daily basis.”

 

And as she helps to navigate the next generation of educators into their professions, Anderson motivates them by saying, “Teaching is important! You are valued and appreciated by your community. Teaching is a rewarding job that can be challenging and overwhelming at times, however it is worth every moment.”

 

Anderson explores every new opportunity as she looks toward the future. “Educational technology has impacted my job by providing resources for students that need additional support, creative outlets and as an extension for children that need challenges in my classroom,” she says. Furthermore, her students will never be left behind on any front, “My school has an annual Juniper Film Festival where every classroom makes a student-created movie and then we celebrate the end of the year with a large celebration.” And if that was not enough, Anderson works for every student’s tomorrow, “We teach our elementary students basic coding, problem solving, and collaboration skills utilizing educational technology.”

 

In the end, there is no magic shortcut to being a successful teacher, but Anderson knows what it takes: “Be positive, work hard and you can make a difference in your classroom and community.” If that is not enough, she does have one simple equation to push our aspiring teachers onward, “Effective effort + Strategies = Success.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Know your goals, know your path, give back, be a leader, these simple tenets offer the greatest rewards. For Marinda Peters, counseling was her goal, her path and ultimately her reward.

 

“My passion is for the betterment of our society, and I truly believe that our young people are our future, so if we can support our young people to be the best citizens that they can be or the most successful that they can be within their definition of success, I want to be a part of that,” says Peters, an OSU graduate and adjunct instructor at OSU-Cascades.

 

In 2014, Peters won the Oregon School Counselor of the year award. This impressive recognition is evaluated on the ability to create systemic change within the profession of school counseling. Through her own significant leadership, collaboration and advocacy skills, Peters was able to achieve increased student success and create fundamental change within her school.

 

On winning the award, Peters says, “I think it was really affirming the work that I do is valuable both how the students perceive it, but also how professionals in this area perceive it.”

 

Since receiving the Oregon School Counselor of the Year award, Peters went on to earn her Ph.D. in Counseling through OSU. She currently works as a counselor in Neil Armstrong Middle School in Forest Grove, Oregon, where she supports 450 seventh grade students. She assists them with social issues, career readiness, and academic advising. In addition to student counseling, she is also a Crisis Response Flight Team counselor.

 

For Peters, however, counseling is so much more than a job, “To be able to go to work every day and know that I’m making a difference and to feel that difference and to see that growth, really binds well with the passion that I have.” Her work is her calling, “I’m able to get paid for what I love to do, which is pretty amazing.”

 

As the primary breadwinner of her family, Peters believed that by pursuing a Ph.D. in Counseling she could not only make a significant positive impact with her students, but also her family. Still, she was not entirely certain how should could find the time, “The reality that I needed to be able to continue to work and do my job was really, really important.” When she learned about OSU’s hybrid program for the Ph.D. in Counseling, Peters knew she had found the answer to balancing school and work life, “This hybrid format allowed me to have access in a way that no other program was even close to allowing me.”

 

Regardless, embarking on such a daunting endeavor was intimidating. “I appreciated that [the program] was hybrid and not just online.” Peters was able to take advantage of all aspects of OSU’s unique platform, “I think there was a balance between the format working well, the instructors doing a good job using that format, and my cohort rocking it! They were so much fun.”

 

Oregon State University’s Ph.D. in Counseling degree prepares candidates to become advanced practitioners, clinical supervisors, and counselor educators in clinical and academic settings. The aim of this program is to develop skills in research that help to recognize and address the societal changes of diverse communities and their cultures. Ultimately, the candidates are readied to become leaders in their fields and advocates for change. And with this foundation, Peters recognized the multi-layered benefits of returning to school and completing her doctorate.

 

Looking back on her career before getting her Ph.D., she asks, “How did I ever do my job before? I’m so much more professional, and I have such a better theoretical base than I would’ve otherwise.”

 

Now, by extending her experience as an adjunct professor at OSU-Cascades, Peters is able to impart her own skills and knowledge with incoming students; “I think the quality of education that I got was pretty solid, so I really like giving back to a system that I believe in.”

 

She views her teaching opportunities as a way to motivate and encourage. “I think that people are inspired because they appreciate how others can change and better themselves and I think that if we truly believe that people have the capacity to find their inner resilience, then we can do our job in a meaningful way.”

 

Peters truly believes that being a middle school counselor is how she can change lives and make a difference in the world, particularly as she reflects back on her primary education experience and her own school counselor. “The culture of acceptance and love that she provided for the school was really inspiring.” She is now the one creating a culture of acceptance and love for her students.

 

Master of Arts in Teaching alumna Lural Ramirez hopes that new teachers dream big.

 

“College of Education students coming out of a really strong program like Oregon State’s should challenge and stretch themselves,” she says. “It’s important to be open minded, and learn new things. Dream big.”

 

Ramirez has been dreaming big herself since arriving at Oregon State in the early 2000s. “What was fantastic about the MAT program was the intensiveness. The program does a great job mixing pedagogical theory with time spent working with students and engaging more as a teaching professional.”

 

When Ramirez graduated, she felt fully prepared to enter the classroom. “I had a lot of good knowledge, and I had a lot of job offers coming out. I was a really good teacher candidate thanks to the program.”

 

Ramirez worked at Lincoln Elementary school in Corvallis after graduating, where she helped start a dual immersion program in Spanish and English. But after ten years, she was ready to dream a little bigger. “It was really inspiring to see all the changes we brought about at Lincoln. And I’d always wanted to move abroad.”

 

“I think that if you always stay in the same place, speaking the same language, working the same job, you’re not learning as much as you could.”

 

So Ramirez and her family moved to Costa Rica, where she joined Futuro Verde. “It’s one of the most inspiring schools I’ve ever worked at,” she says.

 

Futuro Verde is a bilingual IB (International Baccalaureate) world school located in rural Costa Rica. Their curriculum weaves environmental education and social justice in with the core classes, challenging students to be critical thinkers and learners.

 

Futuro Verde received its IB designation just this year after clearing a five year authorization process. “We have 185 students, and typically IB schools have between 500 and 1,000 students. We were told by the authorization board that they had never seen a school that was so small and rural that fulfilled the requirements to become an IB world school.”

 

Starting in 2019, students graduating from Futuro Verde will have the IB distinction on their diploma, something that Ramirez says will open countless doors for them. “We can already see a shift…they are much better thinkers and they are much better learners, but they also have much bigger dreams.”

 

“We’ve opened up this world of possibility for them.”

 

Futuro Verde is a nonprofit school, with around 35% of students receiving some kind of financial assistance. This sets it apart from other private schools, Ramirez says, and also ensures a more diverse student body.

 

Futuro Verde is also unique in its commitment to sustainability. The school has the highest green certification allowable in the country of Costa Rica, and all students take environmental education classes from the age of three.

 

“Our environmental education is a mix of theory and a lot of practice. We’re surrounded by native jungle. There’s howler monkeys in our trees. We want to embrace that nature. So we don’t have any doors or windows on classrooms, everything is very open. The animals come in and the students go out.”

 

“It’s a way for children to grown up very connected to the world around them.”

 

Students at Futuro Verde receive a holistic education. From the age of three, they take math, science, history, English, and Spanish classes, but they also take classes in visual arts, music, physical education, and swimming. “There’s also a comparative language study that gets the students thinking meta-linguistically about language development.”

 

“The students are not sitting for two hours doing math. Our kids are doing the math, but not necessarily in math classes. We believe they should have opportunities to learn in lots of different ways.”

 

Each graduating student is fully bilingual in Spanish and English, as classes are taught half in Spanish and half in English. Many students are often multilingual with as many as ten different languages spoken in the homes of students.

 

Students at Futuro Verde also have the opportunity to participate in sports, such as swimming. “Our kids are incredibly gifted athletically. They go to nationals, and we have kids qualifying for central american games.”

 

“We have a swim team that’s just incredible, and we don’t even have a pool. They train in the ocean and rivers. Then they go to these competitions in giant olympic sized pools they’ve never even seen before, and then they win! They have unbelievable grit.”

 

This year, the school received a donation that will go towards building a sports facility for the student athletes. “It’s amazing to see people around the world inspired and wanting to contribute and support our school,” Ramirez says.


Ramirez says the advice she would give to new teachers is to never stop dreaming. “It can be easy to think, maybe I did my student teaching in first grade so I’m going to find a first grade position, but it’s really important to stretch yourself. Can you be open to a possibility in a teaching assignment that goes beyond the class that you’re teaching that makes more of a community impact? Can you help develop a program at your school that has a really important impact on the community?”

 

“The most important questions you can ask are: what can I use my skills for, and how can I make the greatest impact on the community I’m choosing to work in?”

 

To find out more about Ramirez and Futuro Verde; visit the school’s website at:

https://www.futuro-verde.org/

 

Nell O’Malley always knew her heart was in teaching. “I derived a lot of pleasure from working with kids,” she says. “I worked at camps for 13 years. I gravitated towards working with kids during the summer.”

 

But for years, she worked as a professional writer in Boston. “I was in a cubicle doing a lot of writing, and really wanted to get out of the cubicle,” she says. “After several years of writing, working in private industry, I thought, ‘This is not where my heart is.’”

 

Nell and her husband Mike O’Malley, senior instructor here at Oregon State, moved to Oregon in 1991. Nell worked as an elementary and middle school teacher for seven years before coming to work at Oregon State as a part-time Student Teaching Supervisor. “I had two small children, it was a flexible job, and I loved it,” she says.

 

Over time, Nell began taking on more roles at the university. “As the kids grew older I was available for more work. I was asked to teach a class.”

 

“I remember thinking ‘I can’t do that.’ But I did, and I could.”

 

Nell has held many roles at Oregon State throughout the years. She moved up to Program Coordinator and oversaw master’s programs at the College of Education, then took over the undergraduate programs as well before becoming the Field Coordinator for all programs. In 2011, she took over as the Director of Licensure.

 

Nell says her experience working in different parts of the College of Education is an asset. “I have a lot of historical knowledge about how things work, how we evolved to the place where we’re at.” Her experience is an asset, she says. Her historical knowledge is what helps her understand how decisions should be made going forward.

 

As Director of Licensure, Nell oversees Oregon State’s alignment with accreditation processes, working with both state and national accreditation organizations. She says some of the difficulties students face are the rising costs of licensure and the demanding standards they must meet.

 

“Test scores and teacher effectiveness are not necessarily correlated,” she says.

 

“Giving students tools for improving their test scores would be very helpful,” she says. “We’re discouraging a lot of people who would be very effective teachers. People who have emotional intelligence and commitment to helping diverse students succeed.”

 

Nell’s says a commitment to a more diverse teaching force is in line with the College of Education’s current strategic plan, which was launched in 2015. The plan seeks to make the College of Education more diverse, more culturally competent, and more research-driven.

 

Donating to help pay licensure fees for education students will help that plan be fully realized. “We’re trying to increase the number of people going into teaching, as well as the diversity of people who go into teaching. We can’t do that without resources.”