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.”

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.”

Larry Flick, Dean of the College of Education in his office

College of Education’s Dean, Larry Flick reflects on his past six years at OSU saying, he could not have remained in the role of dean for six years “if I did not have caring, committed people beside me all the way.” With spring term coming to an end and summer just around the corner, we are also saying our farewells to the retiring dean.

Larry assumed the dean position on July 1, 2011. He graduated from Purdue University as an engineer, and says that “OSU brought back many fond memories” such as being one of the editors for the Purdue student newspaper, the Exponent, as an undergraduate. Flick reminisces, “seeing the Student Experience Center go up on the OSU campus was very exciting! Orange Media is on the top floor of the beautiful building and I made a point of going for a look around as soon as it was done. The Exponent offices were in the basement of the Purdue Memorial Union, but I loved every minute of it.”

The job as a dean is very busy and sometimes challenging. Flick shares that, “this time in higher education is very challenging with universities facing an enormous amount of change.” Flick says that he is lucky to have had the “distinct pleasure of working with a very smart group of faculty and administrators in the college as we have worked to adjust to these challenges and changes in how colleges are funded.”  Flick adds that he has also “thoroughly enjoyed being among highly committed and talented people in the Provost Council and President’s Cabinet.”

After retirement, Flick and his wife are hiking in the Swiss Alps (this July) and traveling to Italy, Costa Rica, and Panama where they plan to go kayaking, snorkeling, and doing some more hiking, while enjoying some cultural experiences in the mix.