OSU student teachers in Portland and Salem immerse themselves in the communities where they teach.

Student teachers from OSU
Student teachers from OSU

For students in Oregon State University’s Master of Arts in Teaching immersion program, the line between work, school and home can get pretty blurry. The one-year program, offered jointly by OSU’s College of Education and Extended Campus, embeds students in a multiethnic school in Salem or Portland — and many of the student teachers, encouraged by program leaders, choose to live in the communities where they teach. Jean Moule, the program’s coordinator, says she doesn’t know of any other program in the U.S. where you can earn a master’s degree, a teaching license and an ESOL or bilingual endorsement all in one year. And on top of those credentials, the OSU immersion teaching program helps students build up cultural knowledge that makes them uniquely qualified to teach in today’s ethnically and culturally diverse classrooms.

Since its start in 2002, the immersion program has enrolled about 20 students a year. Typically, half of them live in Portland and the other half in Salem. They meet as a class in both cities, usually in a school where some of them teach – although the “cohort” has also been known to meet for class in a coffee shop in Northeast Portland. “The cohort is extremely supportive,” Moule says. “And part of the reason is that, without a physical campus, they have to be. Many of them commute to class together. The group becomes very close-knit.”

The students are able to teach one another through the experiences they bring to class from their host schools. The Salem schools tend to be bilingual, while the Portland ones typically have a prominent African-American population. But Moule says she thinks the skills they develop in their OSU classes and host classrooms are transferable among many different cultures. “Being culturally competent means to me that you get in the learner’s seat and stay there,” she says.

Eric Marsh, a 2006 graduate who did his in-school training at Martin Luther King Jr. school in Northeast Portland, now teaches fourth grade in a Hubbard, Ore., elementary school with a sizable Russian population. At both schools, he says, he has found use for the “cultural lens” he fine-tuned in the immersion program. The children in his class who belong to the Russian Old Believer religious tradition have dietary restrictions on certain days, for example, and Marsh has learned to schedule class parties around those days. This exposure to different ways of experiencing the world is what drew him to the immersion program. “It piqued my interest, teaching in a population I was not part of,” he says. “I wanted to try something out of my comfort zone.”

“It was a wonderful opportunity to stretch my cultural awareness,” Marsh adds, “and it had a lasting effect on me and how I view the world.”

M.A.T. Immersion Program Web site

Jean Moule’s faculty page

Jean Moule Q&A

OSU news article on the M.A.T. Immersion Program

An auto accident caused Holli Kaiser to rethink and refocus her life. Now she’s on her way toward a teaching career.

A car crash forced Holli Kaiser to refocus her life
A car crash forced Holli Kaiser to refocus her life

When Holli Kaiser was attending Medford High School a decade ago, no one — least of all her — would have envisioned her as a teacher. A halfhearted student, bored and restless, she dropped out and took a job at G.I. Joe’s. College was not on her radar.

But in the crumpled metal of a devastating car crash that severed her spinal cord, her life took a paradoxical turn. Her new physical limitations forced her to refocus her life. So began a 10-year intellectual quest that has earned her top academic honors and taken her — in another twist of irony — back to the high school environment she once rejected. This time, she’ll be at the front of the classroom.

Kaiser found in OSU’s Education Double Degree Program the optimal blend of subject-area specialization with a teaching focus. Launched in 2003, the program was designed to attract new talent to the teaching ranks and fill looming workforce gaps, especially in math, science and technology. Kaiser embodies the program’s goal: to draw a broader range of talented candidates into the teaching pool.

“The real problem is that most teacher preparation models create self-imposed structural limitations on who can access the field,” says Sam Stern, dean of the College of Education. “This innovative program takes advantage of the existing talent, knowledge and interests of our current undergraduate students and targets them to the hardest-to-fill teaching jobs where we need them the most.”

Combining teaching with her subject-area major, family and consumer sciences, Kaiser sees her degrees as a chance to give students what was missing in her own high school experience: real-life applications. She thinks she might have stayed in high school if the curriculum had answered that universal question, “Why do I need to know this stuff?” Family and consumer sciences, she says, is all about the real-world skills and understandings that underpin a healthy, satisfying, successful life.

“This discipline runs the gamut, from pre-birth all the way through aging,” says Kaiser, who was the American Association of Family and Consumer Sciences student of the year for Oregon in 2005. “As a teacher, I want to make the connection of relevance for my students.”

Education Double Degree Program

Family and Consumer Sciences option

College of Education story on Holli Kaiser

Jackie Balzer spends a lot of her day talking to students, listening to their concerns and finding ways to promote their success.

Jackie balzer is finding ways to promote student success
Jackie balzer is finding ways to promote student success

When you see Jackie Balzer just about anywhere on campus, you’ll probably see students chatting informally with her, clearly feeling comfortable in the company of the Dean of Student Life.

There isn’t a better illustration of the connection OSU students have with Balzer than this. She is there when they need her. She says it’s an important part of her job to help students when they’re having difficulties.

“I feel honored to work in an environment that is about preparing students to find their potential,” Balzer says. “OSU students have lives outside the classroom as well as in the classroom, and I want them to flourish wherever they are.”

She supports students’ intellectual, ethical, social, and leadership development and works to stimulate a dynamic and engaging student life. “I enjoy the opportunity to engage with students and help them meet their potential,” Balzer says.

“It really floats my boat when I go to commencement and see their success or when they call back after settling into a career and say how much OSU helped them,” she says.

Balzer’s commitment to student success was recognized earlier this year when she received the McKay-Wight award from the OSU chapter of Phi Delta Theta. The award is given annually to a faculty or staff member who makes a difference in the lives of students.

Balzer is well prepared for her job. Her undergraduate degree is in sociology, and she has a master of education degree in College Student Services Administration and a doctorate in Community College Leadership, both from OSU’s College of Education.

Larry Roper, vice provost for student affairs, says Balzer is ideal for the job. “I think she is wonderful,” Roper says. “Jackie loves this community and the students. It is definitely reflected in her work.”

Dean of Student Life Web site

College of Education Web site

OSU’s Education Double Degree is allowing Evan Johnson to take advantage of his love for computers and for teaching.

Evan Johnson has a love for computers and teaching
Evan Johnson has a love for computers and teaching

“Growing up in the computer generation, I was always interested in computers,” says Evan Johnson, an OSU senior from Oregon City. “I knew it was the future and I wanted to be in on it.”

But he also had the feeling that he’d like to teach. “Playing basketball in high school, people told me I’d be a good coach. Teaching people was something I liked.”

He got a taste of teaching when he volunteered to tutor students at Corvallis High School last year. “It was supposed to be for a term, but I liked it so much I decided to stay with it for a full year.”

That caused the computer engineering major to enter OSU’s Education Double Degree program, which allows students to get two degrees–one in their primary field and one in education when they graduate.

Evan now plans to teach high school mathematics. “I hope I can put both majors to work,” he says. “As a computer engineer, I can think of about a thousand reasons students need to learn math. And I could also teach technology education.”

He hopes to make an impact on his students. “One of my personal goals is to be a motivator–an encourager–that’s important,” he says. “Students can’t carry all of their books home, and they want to take books from classes they enjoy. I want them to take math books home.”

He recently was awarded a $2,500 College of Education scholarship for his final year of school. “That will really help,” he says.

But engineering is still part of Evan’s life. He was part of a team that took second place in OSU’s Engineering Expo this spring, developing a cell phone-car alarm interface that allows users to arm and disarm their alarm by phone.

Education Double Degree

College of Education

College of Engineering

Oregon State educators and researchers are having an impact in the metro area.

Lisa Conroy, Christopher Higgins and Jean Moule
Lisa Conroy, Christopher Higgins and Jean Moule

Lisa Conroy, Christopher Higgins, and Jean Moule are only a few of the links that give OSU an important and visible effect in the Portland area and around the state.

Conroy, a 4-H faculty member in OSU’s Washington County Extension Office, leads the innovative Web Wizards program that mentors Hispanic youth with the help of community partners, including Intel and the Intel Latino Network volunteers.

The students learn emerging technologies from their Intel mentors. In return, they teach computer skills to community members. Participants in the 4-H Web Wizards program have a 95 percent graduation rate, and 98 percent pursue post-high school education. More information

Higgins, assistant professor of civil engineering, is principal investigator in a project teaming OSU with the Oregon Department of Transportation to study the structural integrity of bridges. ODOT gave OSU $1.6 million to examine the severity of cracks in more than 500 Oregon bridges. An on-campus laboratory will enable OSU engineers to conduct full experiments on structural elements. “There is almost no data to determine how bridges actually fail under moving loads,” Higgins says. “This grant will give us the opportunity to address these issues.” More information

Moule, assistant professor of education, developed an “immersion” program that takes OSU student teachers into Portland to teach in predominantly African-American King Elementary School. And each year, busloads of King students visit OSU for exposure to the campus. The program began in spring 1998 and focused on the best ways to teach math and science to culturally diverse students. Moule says some differences in learning, such as emphasis on family or age, can be culturally based, and new teachers need to be aware of these differences. More information

An innovative teacher education program helps OSU students prepare to teach in a multicultural classroom by providing on-the-job experience.

Student teacher in multicultural classroom
Student teacher in multicultural classroom

Jean Moule, an assistant professor of education at Oregon State University, knows from first-hand experience that there can be a cultural gap when teachers step into a classroom and encounter a diverse group of students. Bridging that gap is something that teacher preparation programs struggle with around the country. Moule, an African-American educator, has come up with a solution that has turned into a rewarding partnership between OSU and Portland’s Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School. She has developed an “immersion” program that takes OSU student teachers into Portland to teach in the school’s predominantly African-American classrooms.

This is the fifth year the program has been offered, and Moule said the students become aware that there may be differences in learning that are based not only on cultural background, but family situations, age, environment and other factors. The program expanded in 2002 to include Grant Elementary in Salem, a K-8 school in Salem with a bilingual immersion program.

“When these OSU students come out of this program, they’ll not only teach their subject matter better,” Moule said. “They are going to know how to treat students as individuals with unique learning experiences. And I expect the experience will explode whatever stereotypes they may have had going in.”

The students spend three weeks on-site teaching in the multicultural schools. “This is a really dynamic partnership that is a win-win-win-win situation for all involved,” Moule says. “As an African-American faculty member, I can talk about diversity in classrooms all day long, but it doesn’t compare with gaining that actual experience.

“Some of the students were a little reluctant about spending three weeks away from campus and their families, but most of them found it a tremendously rewarding experience,” she added.