Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Craig Coleman
MONMOUTH — Western Oregon University has added academic programs in the past few years in an effort to make the school recognized as more than just a place for prospective teachers.
Still, with more than 3,000 WOU graduates hired as educators in 168 school districts in Oregon during the past decade, the College of Education could still be considered a major point of WOU pride — and one that’s garnered numerous awards, including the prestigious Christa McAuliffe Award for Excellence in Teacher Education.
The recognition, announced last week by the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, is named after the teacher killed in the 1986 Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
“We’re all pleased to be recognized,” said Mark Girod, education division chairman.
The honor considers results from teacher education programs and how they’ve advanced the discipline by measuring the impact of programs on the knowledge of a teaching candidate and the effect on student learning.
One element that figured into WOU receiving the award was a model it has provided measuring teacher preparation to elementary and high school learning.
It entails web-based data that allows the university to track how well children are learning in the classrooms of WOU-trained teachers, and making adjustments to university courses based on those results.
“We think this new instrument will help other teacher educators as they reshape their professional preparation programs to meet the needs of 21st-century students,” said Jolanda M. Westerhof, AASCU’s director of teacher education.
The award also recognized a performance assessment used in WOU programs — the teacher work sample — during the past 25 years to document a candidate’s ability to assess, plan and instruct in a standard school setting.
Girod noted some of the delivery methods of teacher education have changed in the last decade at WOU.
The school is now offering more part-time and online programs, and has debuted a package of courses this fall aimed at supporting individuals interested in careers in technical teaching — such as engineering or carpentry in high schools.
Western has 170 undergraduates in its teacher preparation program, 94 in its master’s program, and 53 students seeking special education teaching degrees as of fall 2010.