Department of Education Gives Students Diverse Experience
January 06, 2016
A Challenging Yet Rewarding Field
In the ever-changing field of education, today’s undergraduate education majors and minors are tasked to learn more than just teaching fundamentals. Teachers must be prepared for a changing curriculum at state and federal levels, ever-changing technology, continuing education requirements and a diverse student population.
“Teaching is a tough field today. It doesn’t look like it used to 10 or 20 years ago. But, it’s just as rewarding as ever,” said Dr. Melissa Askren-Edgehouse ’99, associate professor and chair of the Department of Education at Mount Union. “It isn’t easy for teachers to differentiate their instruction for all 30 students in their classes, but when that light bulb eventually goes on for each one of their kids, all the hard work completely pays off.”
The University of Mount Union’s Department of Education is giving students a well-rounded experience in preparation for the demands of working in the field of education.
“The Department of Education has made great strides to enhance student preparation for the ever-changing realities of the job,” said Dr. Patricia Draves, vice president of Academic Affairs and Dean of the University.
The Department of Education at Mount Union offers majors in early childhood education, middle childhood education and intervention specialist, as well as minors in adolescence to young adult education and multiage education. Additionally, undergraduate students choose one of 13 undergraduate areas
in which to receive licensure.
In order to provide students with diverse experiential learning opportunities, the department offers students a variety of field experiences and student teaching opportunities.
“The Department of Education at Mount Union has provided me with opportunities that have shaped me into the future educator I want to be,” said Jena Finch ’16, an intervention specialist major of Boardman, Ohio. “I have had the experience of working with multiple grade levels through my field hours that subsequently led me to my pre-clinical rotation at the high school level. Having the real life application in the classroom has enhanced my understanding of teacher strategies, classroom management skills and the vital importance of high expectations for all students. Mount Union has prepared me for a teaching career after graduation by providing multiple opportunities and resources.”
Preparation for Teaching
During their undergraduate studies, Mount Union education majors are prepared for teaching careers that require continual learning and professional development. Anna Minor ’98, who is the assistant superintendent of Louisville City Schools in Louisville, Ohio, has found her Mount Union education to be beneficial through each stage of her career.
“Education is one of those fields where you cannot be fully prepared for every situation,” Minor said. “It is a difficult profession that requires continual professional development. There were many lessons from my professors that I was able to refer back on to utilize in the classroom. Additionally, the resources accumulated over the time spent at Mount Union provided great opportunities for later in the classroom.”
Students majoring in education benefit from a number of diversity initiatives within the Department of Education at Mount Union, including a partnership with Akron Public Schools. Through the partnership, 100 inner city students visit campus each year and Mount Union students plan the programming for the day – organizing tours and panel discussions.
“It’s a good opportunity for our students, many of whom have not come from diverse environments, to interact with high school students of diverse racial, ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds,” said Dr. Jennifer Martin, assistant professor of education at Mount Union. “This experience reduces the
stereotypes many of our (Mount Union) students’ hold of urban schools.”
In addition, Mount Union education majors enhance knowledge on diversity-related issues as they engage in service projects for their multicultural education course. Students have also benefited from a partnership with Christ University in Bangalore, India, which allowed them to interact with international pen pals.
Mount Union students also benefit from the Thelma E. Slater Curriculum Resource Center (CRC), located on the third floor of the Main Library. The CRC provides a comprehensive collection of P-12 classroom materials across the curriculum in addition to teacher books and other aids. Most materials, including books, display items and realia, circulate throughout the University community and may be taken to local school sites by students.
In addition to field experiences with P-12 students, education majors at Mount Union undergo coursework that is aligned to a number of state and national standards and prepare them for licensure exams.
According to Askren-Edgehouse, education majors are placed in a variety of school settings. This is done intentionally to encourage candidates to experience diverse P-12 students in rural, suburban and urban locations.
“They end up with a greater appreciation for what all teachers do, and we want to make sure our candidates aren’t limiting themselves to one type of school district,” Askren-Edgehouse said.
In addition to conducting field experience and clinical practice (student teaching) in area school districts, Mount Union education majors also have the option to participate in clinical placements in locations throughout the region. The University maintains partnerships with districts in northeast Ohio, Illinois, North Carolina and other places throughout the country.
“A strong alumni network allows students to benefit from relationships with alumni so the educational quality isn’t diminished for students who choose to gain experience out of state,” Askren-Edgehouse said.
One such opportunity Mount Union students take advantage of is Chicago Semester, an off-campus program that incorporates living, learning and working in Chicago. Stefanie Tippel ’16, an English major of Hartville, Ohio, plans to participate in the program in the spring.
“I will forever regard my education at Mount Union as a beneficial and enjoyable experience,” Tippel said. “I cannot forget about those who placed me in the field. I know that because of my experiences thus far and with my upcoming experience student teaching in Chicago, I will be one of the best-prepared candidates for the teaching profession along with the other candidates graduating alongside me.”
Jennie Johnson ’16, an early childhood education major of Canton, Ohio, is preparing to complete clinical practice out of state this spring – an endeavor she never thought she’d accomplish. However, with the support of faculty members, family and friends, Johnson will leave her comfort zone to work in a first grade classroom in North Carolina for the semester.
“Coming to Mount Union was the best decision I made,” Johnson said. “I know that when I graduate in the spring, I will be ready for a classroom of my own because of Mount Union and the awesome people here.”
Editor's Note: The MAEL Program transitioned to a fully-online program in 2017. This stoty was written for the Fall/Winter 2015 Mount Union Magazine.
Educators looking to advance to leadership positions in their careers are benefitting from Mount Union’s 24-month Master of Arts in Educational Leadership (MAEL) program, one of the first graduate programs to be offered at the University.
Students enrolled in the program complete coursework online throughout the traditional academic year and through two seven-day Summer Institute sessions during the summers.
Additionally, the 36-credit-hour program includes the option for eligible candidates to earn Ohio Principal’s License (PK-6, 4-9 and 5-12) and/or Curriculum, Instruction and Professional Development (CIPD) License. After completion of the program, many grads pursue career options such as principal, curriculum director, teacher leader or head of a division or school.
Maeve Gallagher M ’16 enrolled in the program to help reach her goal of becoming a professor and head coach at the collegiate level.
“Every assignment I do is tied to personal experiences of my career,” Gallagher said. “I am fortunate to constantly be learning and applying all aspects of the program to my coaching.”
For Joe MacBenn ’01, M ’15, the MAEL program was a great fit with his busy career as orchestra director for grades 4-8 for Lima City Schools.
“I have a busy schedule but the program was very easy to fit into my daily routine,” MacBenn said. “The online learning aspect of the program was great. The professors organized it in such a way that it was very easy to execute.”
The MAEL program requires a yearlong internship project designed for working professionals. Graduate students work with school partners and University faculty to design meaningful projects in the area of leadership and curriculum.
Darlene Howald M ’14, assistant principal at North Canton City Schools, developed an after-school Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) program for her internship.
“From start to finish, the project required collaboration with teachers, parents, students, school administrators and the larger community,” Howald said. “I learned a great deal about my own leadership strengths, and it gave me the confidence to pursue an administrative position upon graduation.”