Spring 2021 Oregon Stater article by Kevin Miller

The MAT Clinically Based Elementary program and some of our students are featured in the spring issue of the Oregon Stater, OSU’s alumni magazine. We’re so glad for the opportunity to share the work we’ve undertaken, especially with our district partners. 

You’ll see several of our wonderful teacher candidates featured: Kimberly Skinner (Beaverton School District, Class of 2020), Daniel Dai (Portland Public Schools Dual Language Teacher Resident, Class of 2021), Laura Plomer (Hillsboro School District, Class of 2022), and Madeline Elmer (Beaverton School District, Class of 2021)

osualum.com/stater

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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.”

 

 

 

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/

 

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.”

 

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.”

“Elephants are what counselors should be—empathic and caring”

By: Maia Farris

Gene Eakin
Gene Eakin and an Elephant friend

The College of Education’s Counseling Program Coordinator, Gene Eakin, shares an impactful story about a veterinarian whose death was mourned for by a group of elephants. The veterinarian cared for the elephants, and when he passed away, the elephant herd was reported to have stood in front of the veterinarian’s house and bowed their heads. Eakin’s favorite animal is an elephant because he believes that “elephants are what counselors should be—empathic and caring”.

This year we are congratulating Gene Eakin who has been awarded the 2017 Leona Tyler award. This annual award was established by the Oregon Counseling Association to recognize individuals whose work has had statewide implications for counseling. Eakin is the 8th person from Oregon State to receive the Leona Tyler award.

(Past winners listed here http://or-counseling.org/Past-Awards )

Eakin has worked hard on both the state and national level to strengthen school counseling and connect people to the current issues that are especially found in K-12 schools. This past June, Eakin and his wife Twila celebrated 50 years as OSU Alumni.  As an alumus and experienced counselor educator, Eakin is passionate about his work in the counseling program. He is proud to share that in the counseling hybrid program (online and in person), 31 out of 35 students were working full time as they started their third year in the program. The hybrid format fulfills Oregon State University’s land grant mission in providing individuals from all areas of Oregon access to becoming a counselor.

Eakin’s counseling work has spanned forty-two years in Oregon working at Lebanon High School, West Salem High School, Lewis and Clark College, and Oregon State University. Being awarded the Leona Tyler award is unique and means a lot to Eakin, because previous award recipients have mainly been a part of the large population of clinical mental health counselors, and he is one of the few to be recognized for his work as a school counselor and school counselor educator.

He hopes that this award will give him a platform to “speak to the mental health needs of our children and adolescents.” Going forward, we need counselors who will advocate for these needs and have the empathic and caring traits of an elephant. There is an increase in the number of elementary school students who need this support; as elementary school counselors across the state report that more and more students’ lives have been affected by family trauma related to the recession and the resulting family poverty.

Award
Leona Tyler Award

Eakin says, “there are a limited number of mental health counselors in most communities providing services to children and adolescents and Oregon, overall, ranks 49th in provision of mental health services to our citizens.” Eakin expressed that “we need more school counselors doing the good work that they do and more school social workers doing the good work they do in order for Oregon schools to increase attendance rates, graduation rates, post high-school education matriculation rates, and improve the behavioral and mental health of our students.” With Oregon’s student-counselor ratio (510-1) ranking 39th, Eakin vows that he will continue to advocate for the school counseling profession and for the work they do in meeting our youth’s career and college readiness, counseling needs, academic counseling needs, and personal-social-emotional counseling needs.