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UAF strong in developing Alaska’s teachers

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Community Perspective

I am writing to share good news about the School of Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. We are educating many future teachers and counselors, as well as providing current teachers with opportunities for further education. Our graduates are successful, filling many of the teaching and school counselor positions in the Interior, as well as in other areas of Alaska. Last spring, 119 UAF degrees and certificates were awarded to students from the School of Education, and next May, another 117 awards are expected. In the future we intend that the number will be even greater.

The future of UAF’s teacher and counselor preparation programs is bright.

You may have heard or read about a planned administrative reorganization of the UAF School of Education. Although some details of this remain to be worked out, it is clear that UAF will continue to enroll education students and offer postbaccalaureate certification programs and degrees in elementary, secondary, special education, and counseling, as well as graduate studies.

This past December the UA Board of Regents established a goal of having a single college of education in Alaska, located at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau. However, attaining that goal was not feasible, and UA President Jim Johnsen has decided that UAA, UAF and UAS will all continue to offer teacher preparation programs and will benefit from increased cooperation. UAF will reduce administrative costs by merging the School of Education into another UAF college, but from a student perspective, there will be no change. Students will still enroll, faculty will teach, advisers will advise and students will graduate with UAF education degrees and certificates.

UAF has a long history of preparing teachers and carrying out research on how to best educate teachers. Much of this work, starting in the early 1970s and continuing today, focuses on preparing teachers for both rural and urban Alaska. Included with this has been an extensive effort to enroll Alaska Native students.

The School of Education is proud that the University of Alaska Fairbanks has prepared and graduated 450 Alaska Native teachers since 1970.

Here in Fairbanks, our relationship with the local school district is strong. We depend on the district for student teacher placements while the district, with more than 38 percent of its teachers and counselors prepared at UAF, depends on its local university to help fill its teacher and counselor needs. The district’s feedback on our graduates leads to program improvements, and our faculty help lead district professional development.

The pending administrative changes will be barely noticed by our students. UAF will continue to offer first-rate education and counseling programs and will continue to serve students from across Alaska and the Lower 48. Recent recognition for our elementary program from the National Council of Teacher Quality and national accreditation of UAF’s teacher preparation programs are evidence of program quality. Administrative changes will not alter UAF’s commitment to serving Alaska’s needs and to excellence in its teacher and counselor programs and its graduate studies in education.

Steve Atwater is dean of the School of Education at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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