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 to 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.”

Kyle Estrada has simple advice for students considering furthering their education. “I think you should find something that your passionate about. That makes everything so much more rewarding.”

 

“For me,” he says “That’s teaching and working with kids.”

 

As a psychology major at Vassar college, Kyle said that teaching wasn’t originally on his radar. “I’ve always really enjoyed working with kids, but teaching was never at the forefront of my mind in terms of career path.”

 

But after meeting Nell O’Malley, the Director of Licensure here at the College of Education, Kyle began to consider Oregon State’s Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program. “Spring of my senior year, I happened to run into Nell, who works at the education department here, and she told me about the M.A.T. program.”

 

“It kind of jumped up at me,” he says.

 

Now, the M.A.T. program is helping Kyle follow his passion for teaching. Kyle drove roughly 3,000 miles from Poughkeepsie, New York, to Corvallis to join the new cohort of M.A.T. students that will begin their work this upcoming fall.

 

The Master of Arts in Teaching program is a clinically-based program that immerses students in the classroom. These masters’ students spend two years fully integrated in the classroom, gaining valuable hands-on knowledge of elementary school teaching in the Beaverton School District.

 

Nell O’Malley herself is an instructor in the M.A.T. program. “It’s very near and dear to my heart,” she says.

“I think it’s the future of teacher preparation. We just graduated our first cohort, and they are some of the strongest student teachers I have ever seen. Two years in the classroom is just more powerful than one. A lot of great people and good heart in that program.”

 

Kyle says that it’s the program’s clinical focus and dedication to helping underprivileged students in the Beaverton School District that drew him to Oregon State.

 

He hopes that his past experience with psychology will help him excel in the classroom. “It’s a great background knowledge of the things kids could be going through and why they’re acting in certain ways. Otherwise it’s hard to rationalize why somebody would be destructive in the classroom or why somebody would not want to participate.” Kyle says that being the oldest of four brothers has also helped prepare him to teach.

 

Kyle says that teaching is an underappreciated profession. “None of us would be here today without our teachers,” he says. “It’s an incredibly important profession and we should do everything we can to help teachers be as qualified as possible.”

 

“They’re the people educating all the future leaders. It’s essential that we make teaching accessible and we make sure we are able to educate our teachers in the best way possible.”

For Garrett Kitamura, the decision to come to Oregon State had him following in many sets of footsteps.

“My parents married when they were students at Oregon State, my brother went to Oregon State,” he says. “It was something that was indoctrinated in me from a young age.” But it was visiting the university as a senior in high school and smelling “that great Willamette Valley air” that Garrett says sealed the deal.

“I realized this was the place I needed to be; in a really tight-knit community, a good kind of small-town campus feel, but on top of it all, high-quality education.”

Pursuing education runs in his family as well. “I come from 3 generations of educators on my mom’s side of the family,” he says. Hearing his family talk about their experiences teaching is what solidified Garrett’s interest in education.

Garrett graduated from Oregon State’s undergraduate Double Degree program this spring with degrees in English and Education. His future plans include leaving the classroom –  for now – to pursue a law degree that he hopes to one day use to benefit students.

He will begin studying at University of Virginia’s law school this fall. He says his time student teaching prepared him with skills relevant to any job. “Student teaching really helped me hone my ability to organize my thoughts and make very concise plans, while at the same time forcing me to improvise or think on my feet if things start crashing down.”

Garrett foresees himself working in the field of law that advocates for students rights, and hopefully one day returning to the classroom to teach.

“I want to be able to use my law degree to benefit students, and the education system. Whether that means bringing my knowledge into a classroom, or utilizing my experience to work on a litigating end on behalf of schools.”

Garrett says that many students in the College of Education struggle with the demanding course load that makes it difficult to hold part-time jobs and make additional income. “Something I think most people don’t even know when they’re entering the cohort is that the ability to bring in any sort of money on the side from a part time job is very impractical. In many cases impossible.”

“The joke people say is, ‘Oh, you went into teaching for the money, right?’ It’s not a high paying position, it’s something that people enter because they’re truly passionate,” he says.

“But at the end of the day, there are still bills that have to be paid.”



Josephine Stark’s interest in health education began with the desire to help her family live healthier. “Going through high school I never really learned much about health, personal health, or nutrition,” she says. Because she has a strong family history of health issues such as obesity, diabetes, and cancer, she’s made it her mission to educate students and her family about healthier living.

Josephine says that teaching students about proper nutrition and diet, as well as equipping them with the language to talk about their bodily and mental health, is key to supporting their lives and development.

The Double-Degree student majors in exercise sports science and education, inspired by ten years of playing softball growing up. “The things I’m learning through all my public health and exercise physiology classes have helped my life, and have helped my parents’ lives.”

Josephine chose Oregon State because it felt like home “I felt something walking across Memorial Union. I could see myself visually there, and see myself flourish. It was the only school I had that feeling with.”

Her interest in education began in an education practicum class here at Oregon State. Josephine had the opportunity to help a student rewrite a paper, taking him from an F to and A. “It just ignited something within me,” she says. “It made me feel like I can do something small that can impact him for the rest of his life, and that really drove me to put myself full forward into teaching.”


Josephine wasn’t just thinking about herself when she came to Oregon State. The first generation college student was thinking about her younger brother as well. “Not only am I working for myself,” she says. “I have to pave the path for my brother to let him know that he can do that too.”

In the future, Josephine hopes to give back in the classroom and beyond. After receiving her two bachelor’s degrees in 2019, Josephine has thoughts of getting a master’s degree and continuing her education with an ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) endorsement.

“I really want to be able to work with second language learners because that’s really important for this country,” she says.

Josephine also hopes to help create more programs that give assistance to first generation college students, such as Oregon State’s TRIO program. She says that any kind of assistance is important to students like her as they face the mountain of fees standing between them and licensure. “It allows us to fully focus into our schooling and our teaching.”

Mathew Oldfield says the difficulties aspiring teachers face today boil down to one thing: money.

“Money is always on someone’s mind,” the Double-Degree student says. “And when money is on your mind, that means school isn’t.”

 

The one-time physics major is an expert at keeping school on his mind. Inspired by his first class at Oregon State, chemistry with Professor Richard Nafshun, he changed majors and threw himself into a new field of study. “Professor Nafshun just brought so much energy and excitement. I was immediately like, ‘OK, I’m not doing physics anymore, I’m doing chemistry.’”


Mathew says that changing majors didn’t daunt him. “I learned a long while ago that in order to pursue something you need to be interested in it, not good at it.”

 

He was drawn to the College of Education’s Double-Degree program so he could explore his new interest in chemistry and his older passion for teaching. In middle school, he helped his classmates learn grammar and spelling. In high school, he began taking over as substitute teacher in the band classroom as well.

 

An open fourth period his senior year of high school revealed his love of science education. “People would come in with problems in one of their science classes, whether it be physics, chemistry, or biology. I just got to sit there and help them.”

 

Despite suffering from “senioritus,” Mathew says that knowing he could help his friends at school invigorated him. “It was the one thing I looked forward to coming to school each day.”

 

Mathew gained even more teaching experience at Oregon State. This Spring concluded his second full year TAing for the chemistry department. His time TAing has had him drafting lesson plans, managing classrooms, and performing duties in the “Mole Hole,” the on-campus chemistry tutoring center.

 

Mathew will begin his student teaching at Lebanon High School this fall. While he enjoyed his experience TAing, he is excited to begin working with high schoolers. “I’m looking forward to working with the age group I want to spend my professional life teaching,” he says.

 

Mathew is confident that he’ll enjoy teaching at the high school level. “I have yet to find an age group that I don’t get along with,” he says. “I’ve worked with middle schoolers, I’ve worked with college students. It seems somewhere in all of this I missed out on working with high schoolers, which is what I plan to do for a living.”

 

Before Mathew can enter the classroom, however, he must put money back on his mind. Mandatory licensure fees, exam fees, and fingerprinting fees must be paid before Mathew can receive licensure.

 

He says that fee waivers for students would “help alleviate, even just a little bit, that particular stress and mental burden,” and allow students to focus more on their education.

 

“Those sort of fees, although not hidden, often feel that way when you’re presented them,” he says. Students who are already saddled with loans, debt, tuition, and rent feel that additional fees submerge them completely. “It [feels] like, the water’s already up to your neck,” he says. “Let’s just bring that up further so maybe you can breath through your nose.”

 

If you ask Brenda Contreras what her time at Oregon State has provided her, she’ll answer in one word: opportunities.

 

Opportunities such as scholarships, a chance to teach near her hometown, and experience in a dual-language classroom.

 

The former Oregon State psychology graduate is now finishing her first year in the Master of Arts in Teaching (M.A.T.) program in clinically based elementary. The two-year master’s degree program features courses delivered online through Oregon State Ecampus and in-person co-teaching experience in the Beaverton School District near Portland.

 

As part of the program, Brenda spends her days immersed in classrooms, gaining hands-on teaching experience. Each morning she looks forward to the start of the school day. “Greeting them at the door and setting up for the school day, that’s my favorite time,” she says.

 

Brenda didn’t originally envision herself as a teacher, but a part time job at a child care facility and her own positive experiences in her education helped her realize her love for working with children.

 

As a psychology major, Brenda considered herself to be “out of the loop” when it came to the many opportunities the OSU College of Education offers its students.

 

“It wasn’t until after  I started working in childcare that someone told me OSU had a really great teaching program,” she says. “I would go to restaurants in Corvallis and run into people who would tell me about the program.”

 

But it was more than strong community support that inspired Brenda to apply to the M.A.T. program.  

 

“When I learned Oregon State had a partnership with Beaverton School District, I was sold because it’s so close to home,” She says.  Now, Brenda teaches in classrooms less than ten miles from her hometown.

 

Her favorite subject to teach is math, although she also enjoys teaching reading, writing, art, and science, spending time in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts, and math) classrooms.

 

Since one of the school she teaches at also features Spanish dual-language immersion classes, where students are instructed in both Spanish and English, Brenda –  and the students she teaches – gain an additional layer of opportunities to explore.

 

“There’s a lot of research that shows this dual-language model helps ELL (English Language Learner) students,” she says.

 

The ELL students benefit from learning in their native language while also learning English slowly, over the course of their elementary education.

 

The dual language model also benefits students those who aren’t considered ELL. “They learn to read and write in Spanish,” she says. “It’s also more likely they will be bilingual growing up and in the future.”

 

The ELL program model at Brenda’s school begins in kindergarten with classes taught completely in Spanish, tapering off to 80 percent Spanish instruction in first and second grades, and finally settling into half Spanish and half English instruction in third grade.

 

Brenda is grateful for the many opportunities Oregon State has provided her, especially the partnership Oregon State has with local school districts.

 

“People [from Oregon State] are getting hired. People are making those connections in the school district and so many of them I know already have jobs.” she says.

 

She appreciates the diverse classrooms she’s been able to work in, and the wealth of experience the M.A.T. program has already provided her.

 

“I don’t get to work at just one school, I’ve worked at multiple schools at the district where I’ve seen different demographics and different school cultures,” she says. “I’ve made a lot of connections at all these schools, and it’s because of Oregon State.”

Julie Epton with her dog Raja

It’s never too late to continue an education. Julie Epton came back to school to follow her lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. “Ever since I was a kid, I’ve wanted to be in the healthcare field or teach”, she says.

After running her own neuromuscular therapy business for seven years, Julie Epton is now following another dream of hers–teaching science. Currently, Julie Epton is pursuing a Master of Science in Education at Oregon State University’s College of Education.

About a year and a half ago, Epton moved to Oregon from Michigan and decided to pursue teaching. While living in Washington, D.C., Epton taught  an array of sciences for two years in a public charter high school. It was this experience that made Epton want to earn her degree in the field where she always felt she belonged. She also felt that the STEM field “not only needs more women, but needs to support a diverse array of children to get more involved” in science and she believes that she “can fulfill this role by establishing equitable, inclusive classrooms that encourage all children in the practice of science.”

As a STEM educator, Epton believes that “a good STEM education teaches us how to think critically and question the world around us, and how to be smarter consumers of information and more responsible citizens.”

The progressive style of teaching in the Master of Science in Education program, centered on inquiring-based learning and discourse-oriented pedagogy, incorporates Epton’s belief of providing an engaging learning environment and developing critical thinking in students.

Epton loves the program’s focus on Ambitious Science Teaching and social justice, as she is “learning to create culturally relevant, equitable curricula that facilitates students actively engaging in scientific practices and collaborating with peers to develop deeper conceptual understandings.” She laments that her own K-12 education lacked this style of teaching, noting how well it melds active learning with critical thinking and cooperation to create a stimulating educational environment.

The ten month MSEd program is “fast and intense”, but Epton finds it very rewarding thanks to caring, supportive instructors, the student teaching experience at multiple schools, and the connections she has made with her cohort. Epton values the relationships made with her classmates and hopes to maintain a strong bond when everyone begins their first year of teaching. Epton has noticed that with this cohort structure, “[her] learning is greatly enhanced, and the work is exponentially more fun, when you have such a wonderful group [of people] around you.”

Emergent bilingual students now make up 10 percent of the state’s K-12 student population. These students are learning English on top of their regular school subjects, yet many Oregon teachers don’t have the specialized training or certification to meet their needs. But that’s changing.

Thanks to a new, 5-year, $2.5-million grant from the U.S. Department of Education to Oregon State’s College of Education, more Oregon teachers will soon be able to earn their English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) endorsement without having to pay the $10,000 tuition. The grant will also help these teachers work with community resources to build bridges with families of emergent bilingual students.

The TEAMS approach to multilingual education

Known as TEAMS (Teachers Educating All Multilingual Students), the new program will train 80 teachers in the Beaverton, Bend-La Pine, Springfield, Greater Albany and Corvallis school districts to better understand the languages, families and community cultures of their students.

“We know that if teachers don’t have the proper training to support emergent bilingual students, they are not as academically successful,” says María Leija, an Oregon State instructor and TEAMS grant coordinator. “Teachers don’t need to know their students’ languages, but they do need to understand the components of human language — syntax, semantics, pragmatics, phonology and morphology — and the resources that are available to support them.”

For example, a Spanish-speaking student might spell the word coyote with two Ls instead of a Y because a double L in Spanish is pronounced the same as a Y in English. Knowing these linguistic nuances, a teacher can better help students understand errors.

Teachers feel the need

“Teachers have been asking for resources to teach English learners more effectively,” says Karen Thompson, an assistant professor who is leading TEAMS. “This program will ensure that teachers have the best possible preparation for working with this group of students.”

Two cohorts of 40 teachers each will complete six online courses through the College of Education over 18 months, culminating in the ESOL endorsement. The grant also includes funding for a facilitator in each district who will foster connections to local community organizations engaged in cultural understanding. The facilitators and district participants will collaborate with these organizations to co-design education-focused events that deepen a teacher’s ability to engage the parents and wider community of emergent bilingual students.

“Research shows that involvement of parents has a huge impact on student success,” says Leija. “Therefore, we want parents to be an asset, and we want teachers to better understand how they can engage parents.”

If a class is studying a unit on plants, for example, and a teacher knows a student’s parents use plants in traditional healing, the teacher might invite the parents into the classroom to share how plants are used in that culture.

The excitement is palpable among teachers. “We had 27 of our teachers apply for eight slots, so we decided to fund two more teachers through our state transformation grants,” says Heather Huzefka, director of federal programs and student services at the Albany district. “When learning like this occurs, it doesn’t stay just with that teacher in that classroom — knowledge and experiences are shared with other teachers, which has the ripple effect of supporting even more students.”

After earning their ESOL endorsements through Oregon State, these teachers will be poised to make a huge difference for emergent bilingual students. Oregon’s student population may be changing, but Oregon State’s commitment to education for all never will.

A fifth grade boy who hasn’t been engaged in science class suddenly perks up when the after-school lesson involves a visit to a local bakery where he gets to use a mortar and pestle to grind wheat berries into flour for bread making. It turns out the boy helps his Latina grandmother grind corn at his home. Instantly, science is connected to something he can relate to, and a light bulb blinks on.

A third grade girl from the Dominican Republic visits a local tire shop where she gets to use shiny tools like pressure gauges and tire tread measuring devices, and a connection is made in her young mind that math is all around her and much more than the inky symbols printed on worksheets in a classroom.

A group of elementary students learn fractions at a Mexican bakery where they slice up pastries, weigh the portions on a scales, then literally eat what they’ve learned. A weightlifter pumping iron at a local gym fascinates students, and a science lesson about force and weight is driven home. At a Laundromat, students get to disassemble a washing machine and learn about pulleys. A local car dealership serves cookies while students inspect a car that mechanics have put on display in preparation for an after-school lesson

These are all examples from an after-school STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) learning program/teacher preparation course/research project called FIESTAS that was launched four years ago by OSU College of Education faculty SueAnn Bottoms and Kathryn Ciechanowski and 4-H faculty Ana Lu Fonseca. Since then, the project has grown into a multi-faceted en

terprise that could become a national model for successful STEM learning and teacher education

FIESTAS stands for Families Involved in Educational Sociocultural Teaching and STEM. As the name implies, it is about engaging students from diverse sociocultural backgrounds in STEM learning by involving their families and tapping local businesses to serve as real-world classrooms and hands-on labs.

The experiences help students – and future teachers – see how STEM subjects are woven throughout local communities. FIESTAS is also demonstrating that successful STEM teaching depends on a wide range of factors that go well beyond the walls of any school classroom.

FIESTAS started when Bottoms and Ciechanowski partnered with two 4-H after-school clubs and later the local Boys and Girls Club of Corvallis. Their goal was two-fold: 1) expose underserved youth to STEM related projects to increase interest in STEM, and 2) engage preservice teachers (PSTs) in culturally and linguistically diverse settings.

Four years later, the program has grown exponentially and is benefitting students, parents, local businesses, and the 50-plus PSTs who work with students in two dual-immersion elementary schools each year.

“When we started FIESTAS, it was just two after-school clubs, but it has grown all these tentacles and taken on a life of its own because it really resonated with people,” says Bottoms. “Our PSTs find it very rewarding, and parents like it because they hear what’s going on with their kids. It’s so exciting it keeps me going and energizes me.”

Part of what excites Ciechanowski and Bottoms is seeing how the kids – and the PSTs – connect with and learn from the local businesses.

“The community response to this has been amazing,” says Ciechanowski. “There is all this expertise in the community, and when we do a better job connecting teachers to this expertise, we are better at teaching STEM.”

The PSTs meet briefly with the community partners ahead of time to frame the lessons and offer pedagogical expertise, like how to set up activities at stations for hands-on learning.

“And then the businesses just run with it,” says Ciechanowski. “Many are surprised by how well the kids behave, but that’s one of the keys: if you engage children in real-world, authentic ways, they are learning, because they’re not just reading about it – they’re doing it in context.”

By working with people in the local community who use math and science every day, the students see STEM integrated in everyday life, and not something separate.

“We might not identify these individuals as scientists or mathematicians, but they are using science and math every day, so we help kids see that connection,” Bottoms says.

FIESTAS also has a diversity component aimed at helping budding teachers experience first-hand how kids from different sociocultural backgrounds learn in different ways. The program is intentionally targeted at schools with diverse student populations.

“Teachers are generally white, female, and monolingual,” says Bottoms. “We help them broaden their understandings by creating equitable experiences so teachers teach better because they understand kids might not have backgrounds like theirs. Diversity is big and complex and involves religion, race, socioeconomic background, and much more, and as a teacher, you have to understand that the community of children you’re teaching reflects this complex diversity.”

This diversity is also connected to families, which is why FIESTAS reaches out to include the families of the students.

The mother of a Fourth Grade girl told the researchers how her daughter, who ‘hated’ math and refused to do her homework, is now telling people she wants to be an engineer when she grows up. The mother credits the change to FIESTAS, which actively works to communicate with families and sometimes sends videos of the children engaged in the local lessons home with students so their parents can learn, too.

“Parents are partners in this,” says Bottoms. “I always tell the PSTs that kids come with families, and every family is not like your family.”

FIESTAS also has a research component. In addition to the undergraduate PSTs, doctoral and master’s students are involved in data collection and analysis, and Bottoms and Ciechanowski have presented their findings at conferences and published in journals.

“This is a community based research project,” says Ciechanowski.

Bottoms uses the term, “praxis,” or the intersection of theory and practice. “This is what a theory looks like when you put it into practice – an innovative way of preparing teachers to do science and math.”

The researchers have learned that exposing students to STEM in their own community sparks interest and ignites passion, and that STEM learning works best when rooted in the sociocultural relevant contexts of children’s lives. The program is also helping develop teachers who have a deeper understanding of STEM teaching, diversity, community learning, and more.

“We see from our own analysis of the PSTs who are part of FIESTAS that the experience is shifting their perspectives and making a difference in how they approach teaching,” Bottoms says.

The program has been so successful and grown so fast that Bottoms and Ciechanowski are searching to find funding to hire a program coordinator and to support new doctoral students. They believe FIESTAS is so unique and successful that it could be replicated in other communities across the country.

“We’re underfunded because FIESTAS is so unique that it doesn’t fit into a box,” Bottoms says.

Although programs in other parts of the country include some of the “tentacles” of FIESTAS – activities like family math and science nights, no other program incorporates so many different threads or maintains such long-term connections with community partners, Ciechanowski says.

“The difference between our program and others is the level of complexity and the long-term aspect of FIESTAS,” says Ciechanowski. “Universities are often criticized for going out into a community to do research and then returning without necessarily giving anything back to the community. What we’re trying to do differently with FIESTAS is build long-term relationships that benefit all partners.”

By: Gregg Kleiner

What if part of your teacher education included an intensive, 2-year residency inside a public school where you co-taught with – and were mentored by – a seasoned teacher from day one? (Think medical school residencies, but in schools instead of hospitals.)

What if, during the first year of your residency, you were encouraged to substitute teach, helping fund your education and reducing the school district’s substitute shortage? And during the second year, what if the district paid you a stipend for teaching full time in a classroom, where you could immediately apply what you’re learning in courses?

Finally, what if your residency potentially puts you at the front of the line for teaching jobs in the district?

A newly-launched, graduate program is doing all of this, and more. Now entering its second year, Oregon State’s immersive Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) in Clinically Based Elementary Education is a partnership between the College of Education and one of Oregon’s largest and most diverse public school districts: Beaverton. Just outside of Portland, the district has 2,300 teachers, 53 schools and 41,000 students — half of whom are minorities from homes where 101 different primary languages are spoken.

Graduate students in the new program are mentored by experienced Beaverton educators, called clinical teachers. The first-year students are known as practicum teachers and hone their skills in the classroom two days a week. When not teaching, they take online and hybrid courses and can work as paid substitute teachers within the district under a restricted license.

Second-year students, called resident teachers, dive in deeper. They teach five days a week while taking classes and earning a 0.4 FTE stipend paid by the district. During the second year, the clinical teachers split their time between two different classrooms, each run by a resident teacher.

“This is super immersive learning — from the first day of the year, the grad students are introduced as teachers, not as student teachers,” says Nell O’Malley, a senior instructor who helped launch the program and serves as director of education licensure at the College of Education.

Everyone benefits

The graduate students are not the only beneficiaries of the new program.

“Our partnership with Oregon State not only allows grad students to learn from our master teachers and apply what they’re learning in their OSU courses the very next day, but our teachers and staff also get exposure to the latest educational research,” says Sue Robertson, the chief human resource officer at the Beaverton School District.

Clinical teachers get quality help with teaching loads, and the district gains access to good substitute teachers, who are in short supply nationwide. And because the grad students are in the same school for two full years, the school’s entire staff and students benefit.

A big boost for teacher retention

Studies show that more than 40 percent of new teachers leave the profession within three years, often because they are not prepared for real-world challenges ranging from socioeconomics, to special needs, to language barriers.

Matt Nyman, the Oregon State instructor who coordinates the MAT program, believes it will have a significant impact on teacher retention rates.

“This is learning by immersion — our students experience exactly what they will be getting into as teachers, and they are prepared for that,” Nyman says. “We’re accessing the wisdom of practice from Beaverton clinical teachers.”

Competitive and collaborative

Although there are other immersion-type teacher education programs in the U.S., the sustainable funding model of the Oregon State program sets it apart.

“Having students in classrooms as substitute teachers during the first year, and then as part-time employees the second year — now that is very different,” O’Malley says.

Robertson has worked closely with the teachers’ union, and so far, the MAT program is proving to be a good fit.

“We have a very good relationship with the teachers’ association,” says Robertson. “They understand that the better prepared teachers are, and the more the district invests at the front end, the more successful teachers will be in the long run.”

Another distinguishing feature is that everyone gets a say in which graduate students are accepted into the program and which clinical teachers get to work with them.

“It’s very competitive because both OSU and Beaverton have to agree,” says Melissa Potter, university partner liaison for the Beaverton School District. “We’re at the table when deciding which grad students will go into the classroom. And they’re at the table when selecting the clinical teachers. It’s very unique.”

Although it has been just a year, all parties are committed, flexible and looking forward to the second year.

“We’re really lucky to have such a special group of people — both at OSU and here in Beaverton,” Potter says. “It’s very exciting.”