Computer software engineer switches careers to teaching

Susan McCourt, ’15, has little classroom experience, but that’s not stopping her. As a former computer programmer, she knows all about solving problems. As a recent GTEP graduate, she is enthusiastic about her newest challenge—working with kindergarten students. She recently collaborated with Graduate School of Education Professor Sybil Kelley on an article that describes the work she did last year during her practicum for a science unit about sound. “Assessing the Unseen: Using Music and Literature to Access and Develop First Graders’ Knowledge of Sound Waves,” was published in the January 2016 issue of Science and Children and provides insight on her exceptional ability to differentiate instruction for students with various skills.

“I’m so excited and proud of this article,” said Kelley. “Susan is really an amazing educator and colleague!”

McCourt is a kindergarten teacher at Chenowith Elementary School in The Dalles, Oregon. Kelley is an assistant professor of science education and sustainable systems at Portland State University in the Leadership for Sustainability Education program. She also teaches the Elementary Science Methods courses in the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP). Continue reading

GSE students write Oregon African American History curriculum

Black historyIn 1844, Oregonians declared slavery illegal yet simultaneously enacted the infamous “Lash Law” requiring that “Blacks in Oregon, whether free or slave, be whipped at least twice a year until they quit the territory.” Four years later, Oregon’s provisional governor passed the first Exclusion Law making it unlawful for African Americans or people of mixed heritage to reside in Oregon Territory.1 African Americans were prohibited from living, travelling, or owning property in Oregon. Despite the fact that many of these laws were repealed in the early 20th century, discrimination against African Americans and other culturally diverse people continued unabated as they were refused service in restaurants, had limited access to businesses, jobs, and housing, and were prohibited from voting. Oregon was considered one of the worst places for African Americans outside of the South,2 and in the 1920s boasted an active Klu Klux Klan membership of 35,000.3 Does this surprise you? If so, you are not alone. The history of the African American population and other important people of color in Oregon is difficult to find in any mainstream textbooks.

Today, issues of diversity and inclusiveness are paramount in education. Because of this, a new project, conceived by Professors Patricia Schechter (HST) and Gayle Thieman (CI), was launched to provide new resources for K-12 educators related to the history of African Americans in Oregon. Dr. Schechter teaches in the PSU History Department and is an oral historian who co-authored an oral memoir of the first African American woman to be elected to the Oregon State Senate, the Honorable Avel Gordly. Dr. Schechter was also instrumental in getting an important African American history collection donated to the PSU library that is specifically focused on Portland. Dr. Thieman, a nationally recognized social studies professor, is a PSU Curriculum and Instruction faculty member who teaches in the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP). Together they collaborated to offer a class for K-12 teachers that would provide them with a methodology for researching local history and also supply them with the tools necessary to create curricular materials with a local context for their classrooms.

Nine local teachers participated in the class, Using Archives to Teach Oregon African American History, which was held in a one-week intensive summer format. The curricular materials they develop will be available soon on a website created by the group. These important curricular materials and lessons are an invaluable resource that will provide history lessons never before available to K-12 teachers. Continue reading

PSU graduate Lyon Terry named 2014 Washington Teacher of the Year

Lyon Terry

Washington Teacher of the Year, Lyon Terry snaps a “selfie” with other TOY finalists.

Lyon Terry, the 2014 Washington Teacher of the Year (TOY), is a graduate of the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP). Lyon Terry was selected from nine finalists across the State of Washington. He has a bachelor’s degree from Reed College, a master of education from PSU, and is National Board Certified.

Mr. Terry is a fourth grade teacher at Lawton Elementary School in Seattle and has taught second through fourth grades there for the last 10 years. He previously worked in the Highline School District and in New York City. He is a favorite among students and staff, starting each day in his classroom with his guitar. His approach to instruction is experiential and collaborative. Students in his classes receive extra emphasis on reading and writing. During his time at Lawton Elementary, he has increased fourth grade reading scores at the school by 10 percent. Continue reading

GSE alumnus joins National Geographic arctic expedition

Adam SmithHood River Middle School teacher, Adam Smith, GTEP ’10, got an offer he couldn’t refuse: a trip to the arctic as part of the National Geographic Grosvenor Teacher Fellow program (GTF). He is one of 25 individuals out of an initial 1300 applicants who were selected this year for an all-expense-paid visit to the archipelago islands of Svalbard, Norway.

Participants convene in Washington, DC for pre-trip workshops and to meet fellow teacher/travelers, then they travel to Norway where they stay on a ship during their expedition. Continue reading

AIUTP honors three graduates and Micki Caskey

AIUTPThree graduates of the American Indian Urban Teacher Program (AIUTP) were honored at a ceremony on June 13, following the GSE Academic Hooding event. Graduates Ashley Friedman, Cara Colclasure, and Gina Rentz were joined by faculty, family, and friends for the evening’s celebration, which featured a traditional Native American meal.

Associate Dean Micki Caskey, who is one of the founders of the AIUTP program, was honored at the event for her ongoing support. Cornel Pewewardy, AIUTP co-founder and director of the Indigenous Nations Studies department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences sang an honor song as Dr. Caskey was presented with a Pendleton blanket in the traditional tribal way.

The AIUTP was launched at PSU in 2011 to recruit and train native people for the teaching profession. Portland has the largest American Indian population in Oregon with more than 2.1% of K-12 students, but less than .6 percent of teachers are Native American. The AIUTP is one of only eight universities awarded funding by the Office of Indian Education, U.S. Department of Education and provided a stipend for living expenses and full tuition to Native American teacher education students who qualify.

Remembering Emily de la Cruz

Emily de la CruzIt is with great sadness that the GSE says goodbye to our dear friend and colleague, Dr. Emily de la Cruz, who passed away at her home on May 13, 2014, after a year-long battle with cancer. She was an associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction, and the coordinator of the Graduate Teacher Education Program (GTEP). For the last few years, she led the department in its Partnership Initiative, as well as GTEP revision efforts. In addition, she contributed a great deal to many other programs, including the doctoral program, GTEP, and the master’s program, as an advisor, teacher, and colleague.

She began her career in education in 1974, teaching English as a Second Language and Spanish at Cupertino Union School District in Sunnyvale California. She also taught primary students at Montebello School, a one-room school house in the Santa Cruz Mountains from 1975-1985. She was a pioneer in integrating technology into the schools, which motivated her move to higher education at UC Santa Barbara. There she worked in several positions in teacher education, earned a master’s degree in Instructional Technology, and a doctorate in Educational Psychology. Continue reading