Oregon State University has given me an opportunity to do what I love most -- work with children. Taking a chance and believing in the program says a lot for this institution. OSU has touched my life in so many ways. I am a Hispanic male who at one time felt I had limited opportunities. Many of the interns are older than traditional students in the field of education. Many have families and lives to live, and OSU has been very accommodating -- in my case especially.
Last year my wife and I had a baby that required special help in order to survive, and I needed to be with my family. The people at OSU were very understanding and allowed me to be with my family and hold off the coursework until the fall. I hope OSU continues to be an innovative institution for higher learning. I feel that OSU has a very hometown appeal for being such a large university. Keep up the good work and keep opening and creating new doors. Thank you with all my heart.
Danny Nanez, an educational aide in Salem-Keizer enrolled in an innovative OSU program to diversify Oregon classrooms
Teacher interns work with children in the Salem-Keizer school district, gaining valuable classroom experience as they finish their degrees -- with the help of an innovative distance education program facilitated by OSU.
Salem-Keizer Public Schools had a problem. Their enrollment was not only growing, it was also changing demographically. Many of the students coming into the program were as likely to speak Spanish as they were English, yet few of the teachers in the district had received significant training for teaching in multicultural classrooms.
The district set a goal of diversifying its teaching ranks, and looked outside the district for help.
That's when Oregon State University stepped in. Faculty in OSU's School of Education coordinated a team approach and received a grant from the U.S. Department of Education for up to five years and $1.5 million. With that grant, they set in motion a plan to make Salem-Keizer educational assistants into teachers. Many are underrepresented minorities who already do a great deal of classroom teaching. They just weren't on the path toward a degree.
The Teacher Intern
Taking them out of the classroom wasn't an option. So the school district, OSU, Chemeketa Community College, and the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission got creative, forming a new position called "teacher intern" within the district.
After obtaining an associate degree at Chemeketa, each of these teacher interns is given a classroom in the Salem-Keizer district and receives two-thirds of a regular teacher's salary. The remaining one-third goes toward paying a mentor -- a full-time teacher in the district who supervises three interns and offers support.
OSU is facilitating the project and delivering liberal arts and education courses to the Salem area, so the aides can finish their education.
"We found there are a number of teaching assistants out there who do a lot of teaching in the classroom, and they have an incredible amount of commitment," said Eileen Waldschmidt, an assistant professor in OSU's School of Education. "Many of them have taken full loads at Chemeketa and maintained a full-time job as educational assistants. They will make wonderful teachers."
Teaching Among Different Cultures
This year, a group of OSU education students went to King Elementary in northeast Portland to work as student teachers. King Elementary chose to partner with OSU as part of a program funded by the Oregon Eisenhower Professional Development Higher Education Grant Program. The program gives prospective teachers experience in diverse classrooms.
King Elementary has about 800 students in pre-kindergarten through fifth grade, of whom about 85 percent are students of color. Jean Moule, an instructor in OSU's School of Education, says the program is important because it exposes prospective teachers to different cultures.
"As teachers, we need to adjust our strategies," said Moule, who is African American. "Telling students they need to do well in school is often not enough, especially when this is connected to getting along in the dominant culture. If they don't buy into it, they may not be motivated to learn."
Making Science Fun
A group of OSU faculty members, who happened to be scientists, observed the paucity of science exposure in their kids' K-12 classrooms and decided to inject a little excitement into the curriculum. From a partnership of individuals, the "Science Education Partnership" (SEPS)
soon enlisted new partners, from private foundations, universities and private industry.
The volunteer program quickly evolved. With $525,000 in support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and an Eisenhower Grant, the parents created from scratch a science curriculum for elementary schools, a support system of portable laboratories, and a small army of volunteer faculty members, many of whom served as a classroom's "adopted" scientist.
This year SEPS expanded statewide from the mid-Willamette Valley. Volunteer scientists are now coming not only from OSU, but also from other universities and corporations including Hewlett-Packard. Classroom visits are just part of the program. Faculty have created a curriculum for K-5, where the need was most pronounced; they developed 30 new "science kits" for upper grades and shared them with districts throughout the state; and they've established a scientist-in-residence program.
Said second grade teacher Gerhard Behrens about his school's resident scientist: "When we're confused about a scientific concept or need an example from everyday life, he can help. He brings in resources and ideas that would never occur to us."
President Clinton has honored OSU's SMILE program with a 1999 Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics and Engineering Mentoring. The pioneering program has, for more than a decade, nurtured an interest in science and math among Oregon's Native American, Hispanic, African American, and economically disadvantaged youth.
Here, SMILE students in central Oregon take their learning outdoors, studying insect life in a grassland habitat.
One of the most successful educational programs in the country at encouraging minority students to explore science celebrated its 10th birthday this year.
SMILE is a true partnership between the university, a variety of Oregon schools, Native American tribes, and corporate sponsors and agencies that help fund the program. Together they create local clubs that foster a positive, hands-on approach to science that is not only educational, it's also fun. And it works.
Of the SMILE participants who have stayed with the program through high school, a full 100 percent got their diploma -- double the usual rate for students from this population. And of those students who graduated a year ago, an astounding 89 percent went on to college.
Maria Garcia, a SMILE student at Meadow Park Middle School in Beaverton, perhaps summed it up the best while taking a break from "engineering" a bridge out of straws and paper clips. "This," she said, "is cool."