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New Concentration Boosts Education Program

Rick Gay & Melanie Albert
Future math teacher Melanie Albert '02 discusses the education program with department chair Rick Gay.

It's not surprising to hear that Davidson concentrates on education, but now it's more true than ever!

Recognizing the growing need for well-qualified teachers at all levels of pre-college education, Davidson has strengthened its education department by offering a new academic "concentration" in the subject.

"The concentration addresses the college's commitment to secondary education and our concern for public service," said Clark Ross, vice president for academic affairs. "It should stimulate student interest in an education career, and make our students even more competitive when they search for teaching positions."

Davidson has been formally preparing students for teaching careers since the legendary Bill Hight gained state certification for the education department in the 1970s. In recent years, as many as 14 students have graduated in the curriculum and taken state tests to earn the license necessary for employment in public schools. However, career services office studies show that as many as 20% of alumni teach at some time in their professional careers. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System currently employs 29 Davidson alumni as teachers, and two more as high school principals -- Jimmy Poole '67 and Ann Clark '80.

That evidence indicated to Associate Professor Rick Gay, who joined the faculty last year as head of the department, that the education program wasn't meeting student demand. The new education concentration fortifies the college's existing curriculum for students seeking immediate licensure, and also offers a head start to students with other aspirations in the education field.

The traditional student teaching track prepares students for North Carolina teaching licensure in six subjects -- English, math, social studies, Latin, French, and Spanish. The new concentration therefore won't change things much for students like Melanie Albert '02, a First Union Scholar who has "always wanted to be a teacher." She is pursuing a math major and working toward licensure in that subject. However, her academic transcript from Davidson will now include notice of a concentration in education, whereas there was no designation for previous generations of students who completed the program.

The concentration creates entirely new opportunities for students who choose to follow its "interdisciplinary" track. That curriculum targets students like Cody Ruxton '02, a psychology major who said, "I don't know if I want to be a teacher, but I do want to be involved with children in some way."

The interdisciplinary track accommodates students who want licensure in other academic areas, as well as those headed to graduate school in education administration, and those who want to teach at an independent school that does not require licensure.

In addition, the flexibility of the requirements will accommodate Ruxton's plans to study abroad this fall, and to complete her major requirements. "It gives me the flexibility to do my major the way I want, without the requirement to devote my entire final semester to student teaching," she said.

Requirements for the interdisciplinary track include a minimum of six courses in education and other departments, and a final semester "field placement" of approximately eight hours per week in a non-teaching role in a public or private school.
Rudy Jackson
Rudy Jackson comes to Davidson from Hampden Sydney College.

The department is also being strengthened through addition of another full-time faculty member, Assistant Professor Rudy Jackson. He will teach courses in adolescent development, educational psychology, and multicultural education for the education department, and a course in African American psychology for the psychology department. Gay will teach introductory education courses, as well as a freshman writing course in "School and Society in the Novel." Lecturer Evelyn Gerdes will continue to oversee the student teaching assignment that all licensure candidates fulfill during their final semester at Davidson.

Gay expressed his gratitude to the college for the initiative by saying, "To me teaching is the best profession, as well as the hardest and most noble profession. Particularly now, with public education under such attack, I'm glad that Davidson is stepping up its effort to make sure the profession has strong people in it."

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