Cultivating Partnerships, Inspiring Future Teachers
20 Years of the Distinguished Teachers in Residence Program
Graduates of CSUSM’s School of Education are widely acknowledged by many regional school districts as among the best prepared for the challenges and opportunities in the classroom. One key element that has contributed to the rigorous and thorough preparation of teacher-candidates can be attributed to the groundbreaking Distinguished Teachers in Residence (DTiR) program, celebrating its 20th year.
Designed as a collaborative partnership between school districts and the College of Education (now known as the School of Education), one of the primary goals of the DTiR program is to establish and maintain a close connection between teacher education and exemplary school practice by ensuring that new teachers prepared by CSUSM are well grounded in current teaching concepts.
Harry Weinberg, often referred to as “Mr. Education” in regional K-12 circles, worked with founding College of Education Dean Steve Lilly, CSUSM faculty and school districts to launch the program. He says an important component is the practical knowledge that master teachers bring into the classroom at CSUSM.
“We knew so many wonderful teachers and we thought, `wouldn’t it be great if [CSUSM] students could work alongside and learn from these master teachers?’” reflected Harry, who was superintendent of the Valley Center School District at the time. He later went on to become the San Diego County Schools superintendent and is now himself a member of the faculty at Cal State San Marcos.
Through a competitive process, practicing teachers apply to assume two-year faculty positions at CSUSM and become Distinguished Teachers in Residence. When they begin their new role, they become members of the faculty, teaching classes, mentoring CSUSM students, participating in committees and providing important links back to their home districts.
“Professors are dedicated to the University, to their research and to their students, but most of what we teach is based on theoretical frameworks and research-based practices,” said Ana Hernandez, a DTiR from 2006 to 2008 who says the program inspired her to obtain her doctorate. Hernandez is now an assistant professor of education at CSUSM. “Distinguished Teachers in Residence bring their practical, current knowledge — what actually works and doesn’t work in day-to-day classroom experiences — and it balances out our teacher candidates’ education. When I was a Distinguished Teacher I shared my students’ work, photographs and videos with the credential candidates. All that, plus my personal experience in the classroom, helped round out the theory and research that my CSUSM students were learning.”
Sandra Orozco, an elementary school teacher with 17 years of experience from the San Marcos Unified School District, and Corey Espeleta, a middle school teacher with 18 years of experience from the Carlsbad Unified School district are two of the three Distinguished Teachers currently on staff at CSUSM. Both agree that their experience as Distinguished Teachers have been the highlight of their careers.
“I love teaching [middle school] and the energy of being in a classroom. I was hesitant at first but I am glad that I did this. It has been great to help future teachers grow and this has been a reinvigorating process for me,” said Espeleta.
Orozco noted that becoming a DTiR was also an opportunity for professional growth. “It’s an honor to be a Distinguished Teacher in Residence at CSUSM,” she said. “I look forward to going back to my district to share what I have learned.”
Charles Medved is working toward earning a multiple subject credential and is completing his clinical practice in a kindergarten classroom at Twin Oaks Elementary School.
“Sandra is the top professor I’ve ever had,” he said.“I respect her advice — she wants to help you improve. I call her classes `sticky learning’ because the things she says really stays with you — it’s very practical advice that I can use and remember.”
After observing Medved teaching, Orozco provides a critique. “This is an opportunity for me to share my knowledge and a chance for him to start questioning and improving his own methods,” she commented. “It’s the beginning of a cycle of professional development that will continue throughout his whole career.”
In return for sending a teacher to CSUSM for two years, school districts reap the benefits of having CSUSM professors work with them on collaborative projects. The added teaching resources of the Distinguished Teachers in Residence allow tenure-line faculty to apply for a time release grant to work with and address participating school districts’ issues.
Annette Daoud, associate professor of multilingual and multicultural education, was recently awarded a $1.75 million U.S. Department of Education grant to provide a professional development program for high school teachers to effectively teach English language learners in all subject areas. This award came as result of work she had previously done with the Escondido Union High School District through the DTiR program.
“Time release grants are a wonderful opportunity for faculty to go in and work within the districts on an identified need,” said Daoud. “And they are opportunities to bring in future funding through other grants. That’s important to me because I need to stay connected to the schools for my own teaching and research. At the same time, having Distinguished Teachers on campus brings the most recent pedagogies into our courses as well as a perspective that we don’t have because we aren’t at the schools on a day-to-day basis. The entire exchange is a win-win.”
“Nobody was doing this at the time [20 years ago],” said Lilly. “This is a program that went against the grain but has since been replicated at other universities.”
“Great teachers learn from other great teachers,” reflected Weinberg and, at its core, that’s exactly what the Distinguished Teachers in Residence program is all about.
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