By DONOVAN HARRELL
Pitt’s School of Education plans to offer a four-year undergraduate degree program for students looking to receive state teaching certification.
The Bachelor of Science in Teacher Education program will begin in the fall 2023 semester.
The program will have six academic tracks: one in special education for grades pre K-12 and five others in math, social studies, science, foreign languages, and English for grades 7-12.
Each of these tracks is aligned with the Pennsylvania Department of Education certification guidelines. Students also will be required to complete a student-teaching practicum, where they will teach full-time in a Western Pennsylvania school district while being supervised by a mentor teacher.
There’s been a desire for an undergraduate program since before Dean Valerie Kinloch started her tenure in 2017. Working groups and committees started shaping up a proposal for the program that same year, Kinloch said.
And with last year’s renovation of the School of Education’s home on the fifth floor of Posvar Hall and its restructured programs, now is the perfect time for this program, Kinloch said.
“We've renovated, we have eliminated and consolidated so many of our academic programs,” she said. “We are making space for innovation and teaching and learning and leading.”
This program also comes as the country’s evolving racial demographics create an even greater need for more students and teachers of color.
“Now is a really important moment, because we look across the United States, for example, we see different population declines, we see the census that just came out, we see that the majority will be people of color in this country, if not already,” Kinloch said. “And then, we look at our School of Education, and we’re not preparing students of color to enter the teaching profession across the nation in the ways that we need to.”
Members of the committee that designed the proposal for the undergraduate program said the program will usher in a variety of benefits to the University and the country.
Michelle Sobolak, director of Teacher and Professional Education, said this program is especially important because it offers an opportunity to add more diversity in the U.S. teacher population, which is overwhelmingly filled with white, middle-class women.
Sobolak added that this program gives students interested in getting a teaching certification a more affordable alternative to getting certified through the schools’ graduate school teaching programs.
Sheila J. Conway, associate professor of practice/special education, said the program also help can remedy a national shortage of special education teachers in the U.S. And the program paves the way for more community college students interested in education to transfer to Pitt, Kinloch said.
She said Pitt’s undergraduate program will stand out from others because of its strong emphasis on equity, justice and “culturally relevant pedagogies.”
With this focus, Kinloch believes it will attract more students of color and students from underrepresented groups to Pitt’s School of Education.
“We went into creating this program with equity and justice at the center of all of our conversations,” Kinloch said. “If we're going to disrupt these inequitable educational structures, and we have an opportunity to create a brand-new teacher education program, we have to figure out how to use this opportunity to map onto this new program, our commitment to equity and justice and education.’
Kinloch also is working to recruit more faculty to the school to help facilitate this program. The school is currently searching to fill five new faculty positions. She hopes that the program will impact the University’s hiring practices by including more diverse candidates.
“We need to see more people who look like the communities in which we're supposed to be in service to. We have to,” Kinloch said.
Donovan Harrell is a writer for the University Times. Reach him at email@example.com or 412-383-9905.
Have a story idea or news to share? Share it with the University Times.