U program teaches future teachers

The University was one of 17 institutions to receive a grant for a teaching program.

Adam Elrashidi

.According to the program’s Web site, the University was one of 17 initial institutions selected to receive a grant to create a program model. The Center for Teaching and Learning Services offers the program.

The program was put in place in the early ’90s and focused primarily on assisting graduate students to become effective teachers.

Victor Bloomfield, interim dean of the Graduate School, said the staff and faculty members are highly devoted to the program, its heritage and its ability to help many students.

“Minnesota has one of the earliest and largest Preparing Future Faculty programs,” Bloomfield said. “With the large number of other colleges in the Twin Cities area, we can provide a wide variety of practicum opportunities.”

Ilene Alexander, the program’s director, said the classes provide ideal ways for graduate students to get practical teaching experience.

“I wish it existed when I went to school,” Alexander said. “It’s a great place for people to figure out the next step to take in their lives.”

Alexander said the class explains to graduate students how to make a career out of being a higher-education teacher.

She said that in an average academic year, 250 graduate students participate in the program.

Throughout the program, students work to develop syllabuses and grading philosophies, and also learn from mentors.

“(The program) demystifies the world they are about to go into,” Alexander said.

Hui Wilcox, who graduated from the program in 2002, said she was very satisfied with classes’ emphasis on the methodology of being a good teacher.

“I was delighted to see that there was a place for me to learn about college teaching and to get support for my aspiration to primarily be a teacher,” Wilcox said.

Though Wilcox said the program did a good job of teaching her the abilities she needed, she said it failed to explain how stressful the first year of teaching can be while adjusting to a new school environment.

“Teaching all the new classes while getting used to campus culture and politics at the same time is fairly taxing,” Wilcox said.

Some students said the program is a chance to find out what a teaching career would be like and they were glad to have had the experience.

Kym Wong, a doctoral candidate in the College of Continuing Education, said she would “definitely recommend (the program) to anyone who’s looking at university teaching as a career.” 

Other Big Ten universities with grants to create similar programs are Northwestern University and The Ohio State University.