Pacific’s College of Education is taking a new approach to teacher training, embedding science and math professionals in the diverse, high-needs Woodburn School District.Jenni Luckett | Editor
They become better teachers for diverse populations wherever they go, he said. And, though recruitment isn’t a big problem overall for Woodburn, attracting upper-level STEM teachers who are fluent in Spanish, Russian and, most recently, Somali, is a challenge.
“We’re talking about the level of proficiency...it takes to teach calculus in Spanish,” Bautista said. “You can’t be stumbling over the words.”
The needs of K-12 schools—and their students—are changing, and that means teachers need to change, too. Carr said he’s encouraged by the diverse backgrounds of prospective students who were drawn to the Woodburn MAT STEM in its inaugural year.
“Each of the six people is out-of-the-box in some respect,” he said. “I’ve been doing MATs for 14 years, and there’s always a certain number out-of-the-box, but not usually the whole group.”
Ibrahim Mesanovic is a Bosnian refugee. In Bosnia, he was a chemical engineer, then a high school chemistry teacher. He fled his war-torn home in 1992, and moved to Germany, where he organized a school for refugees and also worked as a journalist.
In 1997, he immigrated to the United States, and he’s been working ever since to gain the qualifications necessary to get back to the classroom. He’s learned English—his fifth fluent language—and by next fall may at last have a master’s degree and teaching license.
“This program is just the program for me, because of my background,” Mesanovic said.
Rebekah Gomez grew up in southeast England and worked as an architect in London and in the U.S. She moved to Woodburn with her husband, and they had five children before he died five years ago.
“One or two years after he died, architecture was not working for me,” she said. She had taught and coached swimming, taught art in her children’s classes, taught summer school and home-schooled her own children for a time. Teaching was the logical next step.
“A friend suggested the [master’s program] at George Fox,” she said, “but I had a 4-year-old, there was no way I could do it. How do you move forward with five kids alone?”
Now that her kids are a bit older—7 to 17—she was able to explore, and she found the Pacific program right in her own community.
“My kids go to school down the road...it’s kind of a miracle to me,” she said. “The more I do it, the more I realize this is what I should be doing.”
Recently, the pilot program was extended for a second year, and Pacific has leased an office in Woodburn for administrative and student meeting space.
Carr said he hopes that the pilot will grow into a permanent part of Pacific’s curriculum, and that it will continue to build ways to attract nontraditional students.
He also foresees a partnership with the local community college that would allow students to gain their core classes through the community college then take Pacific courses for an undergraduate teaching degree in Woodburn.