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August 5, 2002

UCSC sends new teachers into the workforce

By Jennifer McNulty

After 15 months of hard work, students in UCSC's teacher education program gathered with friends and family on July 19 for the final rite of passage before they step to the front of their own classrooms this fall.

Alyssa Cardenas, left, and Feliz Guarino are all smiles before the Education Department's commencement ceremony. Photo: Jennifer McNulty

Wearing caps adorned with flowers and headbands emblazoned with "Thanks Mom and Dad," graduates were "hooded" by faculty and mentor teachers in the Upper Quarry Amphitheater. A total of 115 students received a combined master of arts degree in education and a teaching credential.

The unique five-quarter program was introduced two years ago in response to the state's teacher shortage. Most credential programs are two years.

By speeding up the credentialing process without sacrificing the quality of preparation, UCSC is setting the standard in teacher preparation, said Joyce Justus, chair of the Education Department.

"The number of teachers working with 'emergency credentials' has skyrocketed since class sizes were reduced," said Justus. "If we hadn't sped up the process, the state would be putting more nontrained people in the classroom, and class-size reduction wouldn't accomplish what was hoped."

UCSC Chancellor M.R.C. Greenwood provided opening remarks and offered her personal congratulations to each graduate. Eugene Garcia, dean of Arizona State University's College of Education and a former professor of education and dean of social sciences at UCSC, returned to campus to deliver the commencement address, "New Beginnings: Challenges and Opportunities." In impassioned remarks, Garcia identified the "three R's" for new teachers: respect, resources, and responsibility.

Anthropology professor Alison Galloway, vice chair of the Academic Senate, welcomed the graduates and the crowd of more than 500 who attended the commencement. Frank Talamantes, professor of biology and dean of Graduate Studies, was joined in conferring degrees by Donna Hunter, associate professor of art history and associate dean of Graduate Studies.

Student speakers Mirra Shernock and Elizabeth "Tizzy" Faulkner each addressed the crowd. Shernock spoke of the importance of creating classrooms in which every student feels welcome, while Faulkner recalled with levity the anxiety she had felt 15 months ago about the prospect of teaching a class "solo" for two weeks.

An estimated 75 percent of graduates seeking teaching jobs have landed positions for the fall, said Lynn Kepp, coordinator of the credential program for the Education Department, and many more will secure spots in the next few weeks when school districts embark on their second round of hiring.

Shernock, who is job-hunting in her native Vermont, loved the program and was particularly enthusiastic about the amount of time she spent observing and student teaching in classrooms. "We hadn't been in the program three days before they had us observing in classrooms," she said. "And I was really happy with my student teaching placements. I worked with outstanding teachers."

"It's a whirlwind--it's intense, that's for sure," Shernock added. "But I'm glad it's only a year. Once you get a taste of student teaching, you really want your own class."

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