For those of you that don’t know, this year marks 50 years since the opening of the School of Education here at Nyack College. In honor of such, I have interviewed several of our School of Ed’s faculty and gotten their insight and perspective on the college, what changes they have witnessed in the School of Ed, and what being a part of the School of Education means to them. I hope you will join me these next weeks as we take a look back on where we came from and where we are headed as an institution.
Professor Kristen A. Luba, M.A. has been the Director of Assessment for the School of Education (SoE) since 2008, but she has been working for Nyack since 1996 when she was a student assistant in the library. After graduation in 2000, she began working full-time for the School of Education as the Administrative Assistant. In 2006, Prof. Luba was promoted to Assistant to the Dean of Education for Assessment and Field Experience. Seeing as Professor Luba has been a part of the staff for over 20 years, she has watched and helped the School of Education to grow and flourish into what we know today.
When asked what major changes the SoE has experienced, Professor Luba said that, “the number of certification programs available to candidates and the degree of difficulty in qualifying for and completing the programs,” has changed remarkably since she started back in 1996. She continued:
Back in the day, there were only Bachelor’s programs in Elementary Education, Music Education, and Secondary Education (English, Math, Social Studies). Shortly after came the addition of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL) and Early Childhood Education and then a boom in Master’s level programming–Inclusive Education, then Childhood Special Education, then Childhood Education, then the move of TESOL from undergrad to grad level. Programs began to be offered at both campuses and online. There have been some recent shifts in scaling back programs because of reduced enrollment, but the field of education has had many enrollment shifts over its history in this country, and I expect numbers to increase again as the pendulum swings.
Professor Luba also spoke about the changes that the state of New York has made that have impacted teacher candidates, specifically those changes that have made life more difficult for teacher candidates:
Students used to take two State exams (Liberal Arts & Sciences Test and the Assessment of Teaching Skills-Written) and be able to get their certification and a job, but the State soon added a third test (Content Specialty Test) and then increased the rigor of the first two tests (Academic Literacy Skills Test and Educating All Students exam) and added a fourth exam–a portfolio that required theoretical underpinnings for lesson plan decisions, data-driven decisions for instruction, student work samples, video evidence, and so on–called the edTPA. Now the State has taken away the ALST but increased the rigor of the CSTs. The net difference between 2000 and now is two more rigorous exams plus a portfolio exam!
Things have changed not only for the students, but for the faculty and institution as well. Because of all of the changes from the state, the School of Education had to adjust their programs to better prepare the students for their certification exams, as well as the changing classroom. Since Professor Luba’s start at the SoE, “field experience hours have increased to 100+ prior to student teaching.” This means that teacher candidates are better prepared for their student teaching, though it does sometimes seem like a strain on the student’s schedule. Another change is that New York State, “added required workshops on violence prevention and Dignity of All Students Act and a requirement for a 3-credit course on educating exceptional learners, all of which the faculty accommodated.” Since Professor Luba’s arrival at the School of Education, New York “has also mandated national accreditation, which has meant the school’s redesign of curriculum, increased rigor in assessments, the addition of the Assessment of Dispositions, and stricter policies on admission.” This meant that the school changed from open admission to strict entrance requirements (50th percentile on SAT/ACT/GRE and a high school or previous college GPA of 3.0+).
One thing that hasn’t changed in the School of Education is the faculty’s care and devotion to the students and to each other. This Christ-like attitude is one of the things that makes Nyack’s School of Education unique, but there are many other aspects that make it stand a head above the rest:
The diversity available in the college and local community is special. The hard-core commitment of the faculty to train candidates in current methodologies and terminology is special–they don’t base their teaching on classroom experiences from 20 or 30 years ago! The commitment to God is special and it reveals itself in classes, in departmental chapels, and even in email conversations and advising sessions.
While Professor Luba has had a large impact on the School of Education, it has impacted her as well. She said this about the matter:
Since I have ‘grown up’ in the School of Education for my entire adult life, I would say it has had an enormous impact on me. Although there are many things I could say, these things mostly fit two categories: personal transformation and skill development. I used to be a bit shy and insecure, but God has used my time studying under and working with the faculty in the School of Education to provide the encouragement and opportunities I needed to push my personal barriers and grow in confidence. The faculty are not afraid to ask tough questions in a loving way in order to propel your growth. At the same time, the context of education and educator preparation has been an ever-changing landscape over the last two decades. This has provided many obstacles and many opportunities to rethink and reinvent processes and procedures within the SOE. As a behind-the-scenes contributor, my skill set has grown so much in the use of a variety of technological platforms, in working collaboratively with school partners, in developing new assessments, in analyzing data sets, in writing reports at the institutional, state, and national levels, and so on.
Lastly, Professor Luba left one piece of advice for future Christian teachers: “Keep following God’s path for you. It might not head the direction you think it will, but it will always lead to transformation along the way and to rest in the right destination.”