May 18, 2012 :: No. 189
To prepare more high-quality elementary school teachers and science educators for California’s schools, Cal State Fullerton is graduating the first classes of students from two new and innovative efforts: the combined credential/master’s in education and B.A. in earth science.
Students graduating from both programs will be participating in this weekend’s commencement exercises Saturday, May 19, and today’s (May 18) teacher credential ceremony at 5 p.m. in Titan Gym.
A total of 52 students in the combined program completed the multiple-subject credential program and are earning a master of science degree in education, focusing on elementary curriculum and instruction.
This specially designed 16-month, full-time program, offered through the College of Education, integrates both credential preparation and graduate work, including the completion of a culminating project. Most of these graduates plan to continue their education to earn a single-subject credential in math or science to fulfill the demand in the field, said Kim K. Case, lecturer in elementary and bilingual education.
“This program is unique because students simultaneously engage in credential and graduate courses,” explained Kimberly A. Norman, professor of elementary and bilingual education. “Faculty and students have expressed the richness of the program in terms of combining teaching methods with an examination of theory and research.”
Students have also stated that understanding and engaging in research not only informs their instruction, it provides them with the reasons for their decisions, Norman added.
“As evidenced by their culminating projects, they are equipped to address issues of importance in the field of education,” said Norman.
The future teachers also participated in service-learning activities as part of their studies.
They organized a science education event for local homeless children and their families and raised funds to send school supplies to children in Haiti.
“These students demonstrated their commitment to education throughout the program by attending various conferences, workshops and professional development opportunities,” Case said. “It has truly been a pleasure to work and grow alongside such a capable group of teachers who will, no doubt, have a significant impact in the field.”
Several students have secured full-time teaching positions in various school settings, and many have been hired as substitute teachers, Case said.
Carly Rohrbacker of Tustin will begin teaching first grade at a charter school in the San Fernando Valley. Now that she has completed the program, she feels fully prepared for her career in the classroom: “I chose this particular program because I felt that the master’s courses would provide me with a solid research basis, enabling me to be the best teacher possible.”
“The credential program classes taught us how to teach — the methods, strategies and practices. Our master’s courses helped us search out why we teach the way we do — the research basis behind the best practices in education. This program made me not only a teacher, but a researcher, as well.”
Rohrbacker received an Outstanding Project Award from the Elementary and Bilingual Education Department for her master’s project, titled “Great Expectations: Evaluating How We View and Teach Students from Low-Income Homes.”
“The creation of my project truly was a journey. It began with frustration, due to the achievement gap and the disparities I see in our education system, and it ended with self-evaluation and a steadfast resolve to be an advocate for children from minority backgrounds and low-income communities.”
Preparing Science Teachers
The Geological Science Department began offering the B.A. in earth science degree program last fall with the focus on producing more science teachers, as well as professionals in other science-related careers, such as environmental policy, law and sustainable business, said David D. Bowman, chair and professor of geological sciences.
“The new B.A. in earth science is a step in the right direction to prepare and recruit new and effective science teachers by giving them a broad foundation in science,” Bowman explained. “This degree fills a void for students who are interested in careers that require an understanding of the earth sciences, such as environmental science, but who are not necessarily interested in traditional geology.”
Currently, approximately 30 students are enrolled in the program, with two students completing degree requirements this year. These two students already had met most of the requirements for the B.S. in geology, which is geared for students interested in a career as a professional geologist or in pursuing graduate studies in geological sciences, but switched to the B.A. program.
Leonor Thomas of Orange is one of those students completing the earth science program in August to pursue her goal of becoming a seventh-grade science teacher. She is planning to attend Sacramento State’s teacher credential program this fall.
“This new program suits those interested in becoming teachers,” Thomas said. “It also allowed me to graduate in a timely manner.”
As an undergraduate, she had the opportunity to conduct research in Death Valley with Jeffrey R. Knott, professor of geological sciences, who was also her adviser on her senior project.
Thomas is also a Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation scholar and a recipient of the Bob and Bobbe Adams Best Student Presentation Award at the 2012 Desert Symposium for her undergraduate work titled, “Quantification of the Old Highway Erosion Between Desolation Canyon and the Village Fan, Death Valley, CA.”
She credits faculty members, including Knott, and others in the college for helping her achieve her college goals: “There were times when I felt like tests were too difficult and it seemed impossible to finish. But the faculty and friends at Cal State Fullerton were supportive, helpful and always gave me encouragement and good advice.”
Kimberly A. Norman, Elementary and Bilingual Education, 657-278-3342
Kim K. Case, Elementary and Bilingual Education, 657-278-4313
David D. Bowman, Geological Science, 657-278- 8558
Debra Cano Ramos, 657-278-4027