Community Partnerships Link Teaching and Learning

By Sue Gettlin | November 1, 2011

It is an exciting time to be in the Arcadia Education Department. Based on the notion that we are only as strong as the relationships that we form, the education department is nurturing and strengthening our partnerships with local K-12 schools to create a comprehensive education program that best prepares our students to lead as teachers and administrators.

As part of our partnership work, AU teacher education students have been leading writing workshops with kids, tutoring in afterschool programs, teaching elective courses of their own design to middle school students, and presenting about their work at local conferences.  In addition, the Office of School and Community Partnerships and faculty have been working with school district administrators and teachers on a variety of initiatives, including professional development work in schools, the role of coaching and mentoring in student teaching, and grant writing to fund this important work.

One initiative we are particularly excited about is pre-student teaching in the Cheltenham School District this fall. In this model, senior elementary education students will spend one full day per week (8 am-4 pm) in one of five Cheltenham School District schools. Arcadia students will have opportunities to work closely with their mentor teacher while also developing a deep understanding of the school through participating in everything from greeting students at the door in the morning to attending grade-level meetings.

Arcadia students will also participate in weekly seminars facilitated by Arcadia University faculty as a way of processing the work and planning for what should happen next. This pre-student teaching experience will then become the student teaching placement for the following semester, positioning the Arcadia student to jump right in with heart and head. This initiative is one piece of our expanding partnership with the Cheltenham School District. Other projects include a University teacher education class designed in partnership between Ted Weiner, Arcadia adjunct faculty, and Dr. Elliott Lewis, Cheltenham High School principal; Arcadia graduate education students working as coordinators for a Cheltenham afterschool program, a writing workshop designed and taught by Arcadia Education graduate students; and ongoing meetings between Cheltenham School leaders and Arcadia faculty where we work to design mutually beneficial projects and programs.

Arcadia is also working closely with Upper Dublin school district to form a meaningful partnership. Next fall, Arcadia students will be tutoring, developing a high school improv troupe, designing and leading electives, and mentoring high school students. Arcadia faculty will be providing professional development around the high school’s new scheduling initiative, and seeking grant money to fund the work. Future plans are to create a pre-student teaching model for secondary education students.

Part of partnership work involves opening up our campus to our partner schools and districts. This past spring semester, Arcadia University hosted students from AB Day School, Upper Dublin High School, and Wissahickon Charter School for a day on campus. As part of these days, school students had opportunities to learn about the campus community, sit in on University classes, participate in workshops designed by AU teacher education undergrads, eat in the dining commons, and take tours of the campus with their teacher education student chaperones.

It is an understatement to say that we are living in interesting times when it comes to education. Budgets are being cut. No Child Left Behind legislation muddies the water in terms of being able to put into practice what we know is good pedagogy. Teacher morale can be low. Our overriding question seems to be: What to do in this kind of educational climate?

Our answer: Build partnerships. Through partnership, we can take on these kinds of challenges and in the process create new possibilities for all students, pre-k through graduate school.