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Lynchburg College revising teacher prep program

Lynchburg College plans to restructure its teacher preparation curriculum and develop new instructional partnerships with local school divisions as part of an upcoming program overhaul.

“Our vision is to become a top-tier program and a program of choice for students who want to teach. We want to be the place that future teachers want to be,” said Roger Jones, dean of the School of Education, Leadership Studies and Counseling at Lynchburg College.

LC’s revision of the teacher prep program’s curriculum is scheduled to be completed by fall 2019.

Jones said with a new curriculum comes an increased focus on teaching to the diversity teachers see in public school classrooms across the country: students who are disabled, speak English as a second language, gifted pupils and those who come from a wide span of socioeconomic statuses.

“As a classroom teacher it is critical that you value every one of those children, that you challenge every one of those children and that you promote the education of every one of those children to the highest possible level,” Jones said. “Every child is important; we need to challenge every child.”

Jones stressed the need to develop teachers who can think on their feet in the classroom.

“When things don’t go well, you need to be able to make decisions on the spot,” he said.

Lynchburg College plans to use an $86,500 grant from The Jesse Ball DuPont Fund to accelerate its teacher preparation program and offer new partnerships with local public school divisions. The grant, announced in December, will be used to restructure the college’s teacher education program and also to introduce the New Teacher Center model of coaching and mentorship.

Online the New Teacher Center promotes the benefits of its program, which includes weekly mentoring sessions and one-on-one instructional coaching for teachers breaking into the profession.

New Teacher Center, a nonprofit organization founded in 1998, lists its goals as increasing teacher effectiveness, reducing the turnover in the profession, and improving student achievement.

LC also plans to track the success of its graduates who take jobs with local school divisions, and that’s where the New Teacher Center model of coaching and mentorship comes in. The college will train 40 teachers from local school divisions in the New Teacher Center methods who will work with student teacher candidates deployed in area schools, and LC grads who land jobs locally.

Teachers will come from Lynchburg City Schools and the counties of Amherst, Appomattox, Bedford and Campbell. They will receive four days of training at Lynchburg College this fall at no cost to the school division. In return, those teachers are asked to take on one LC student teacher a semester every other year. If an LC grad is then hired into a school using the New Teacher Center Model, the goal is to assign that teacher as a mentor.

Locally public school divisions in Lynchburg and Campbell County have said they already have the New Teacher Center mentorship model in place.

The grant also benefits local school divisions in the form of professional development. Employees who undergo New Teacher Center training will be able to share those skills in their school division.

“This grant is going to allow us more access to that training,” said Rob Arnold, assistant superintendent for Campbell County Public Schools.

Arnold said mentoring is critical for new teachers who may struggle at the start of their career.

“We think that there’s a real need to improve that leap from college to the first year,” Arnold said. “We find that it’s a struggle for new teachers.”

Though CCPS has about 25 employees trained on the New Teacher Center mentoring model, he notes that isn’t enough with about 80 new teachers stepping into CCPS classrooms each year. Similarly, LCS has staff trained in the New Teacher Model and utilizes its mentorship program.

Campbell County piloted the partnership between LC and local school divisions using the New Teacher Center Model last school year. Lynchburg College paired student teacher candidates with teachers at Yellow Branch and Concord Elementary schools using the mentorship program. Jones said that effort was instrumental in landing the grant that allowed LC to expand those efforts.

Jones said adequate support is needed to keep new instructors in the profession, which he believes is crucial since the Virginia Department of Education lists a teacher shortage across the Commonwealth.

“We have to elevate the teaching profession,” Jones said.

LC’s new general education curriculum, recently revised by faculty and staff members and approved in December, is set to launch at the same time as the teacher prep revisions. Both are part of Vision 2020, the strategic plan adopted by the college’s Board of Trustees in October 2016.

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Yael Bailey