The undergraduate teacher-education program at Baylor has garnered national awards and commendation from the state for its preparation of future teachers. Employers are eager to hire a Baylor teacher. But what is Baylor doing to set these graduates apart? The answer is multi-faceted.
“Our goal is to prepare teacher leaders by giving them a depth of experience and a depth of knowledge — both about content and pedagogy,” explained Dr. Brooke Blevins, chair of the Department of Curriculum & Instruction and associate professor.
Producing high-quality, excellent teachers is a missional fit for Baylor University, Blevins noted. “Our program aligns with Baylor’s mission to prepare leaders for service in a caring environment. Baylor models a supportive teaching environment that values all learners, and our graduates take that value system into their own classrooms,” she explained. “Preparing teachers contributes to Baylor’s ‘Illuminate’ strategic plan by supporting human flourishing and improving communities.”
DEPTH OF EXPERIENCE
Baylor is known for extensive clinical preparation of teacher candidates, through a system of in-school experiences that intentionally build upon one another.
“By providing multiple clinical experiences, our students see different grades, different school contexts, and different mentors,” Blevins said.
• First year:
At the “Novice” level, Baylor students teach one or two students twice a week in local schools, planning the lessons, teaching, and assessing progress.
• Junior year:
As a “TA” or Teaching Associate, students spend their mornings on school campuses, beginning with small group instruction and progressing to teach the entire class.
• Senior year:
At the “Intern” level, students spend an entire academic year as a student teacher on a school campus, using a co-teach model with a Baylor-trained mentor teacher.
Baylor senior Emily Kassing, an elementary education major, is an intern in the classroom of mentor teacher Raven Richard Hopkins, BSEd ’17, (left)
at Robinson Primary School. Hopkins also was an Intern here; she had three job offers when she graduated and chose to stay because the school felt like home.
Kassing noticed Baylor’s distinction when touring colleges as a high schooler. “The amount of teaching opportunities at Baylor exceeds any other school that I toured,” she said. “Friends at other universities don’t even teach until their senior year. I just don’t think that would prepare me.”
During her junior year at Baylor, Kassing had the opportunity to teach at two different school campuses and moved from small-group to full-class instruction. “It’s important to understand the dynamics of a small group,” she said. “And it’s good that Baylor slowly introduces whole-class teaching, because it’s different.”
As a senior, she sees the full arc of the academic year, and she loves the teamwork with other teachers. “I’m looking for a teaching job where they value the team dynamic,” she said.
Baylor has four partner districts and nine Professional Development School (PDS) campuses in Midway ISD and Waco ISD. Each PDS has a Baylor faculty member assigned, as well as a site coordinator who facilitates Baylor student activity.
Jay Fischer, BSEd ’00, is principal of Midway Middle School, his second principalship at a Baylor PDS. “Through the PDS model, Baylor has transformed the educational process since I was a student,” Fischer said. “I love what the PDS model does for the profession, for the Baylor students, for the campuses.”
Fischer said the Baylor seniors on a PDS campus are part of the regular school staff. They get staff T-shirts, come to staff meetings, attend parent nights, and take part in school-wide professional development. He calls it a yearlong job interview, and he cannot even count the Baylor graduates he has hired.
DEPTH OF KNOWLEDGE
Education majors build depth of content knowledge and pedagogical theories through coursework with Baylor faculty, a distinction of the SOE since its inception.
Shametria Routt Banks, BSEd ’02, EdD ’19, said she felt well prepared with a “toolbox” of knowledge and skills. Now an instructional technology specialist in Round Rock ISD, she credited her foundation of knowledge for helping her develop a curriculum design business, Routty Math Teacher.
Sharing of knowledge extended beyond graduation. “I first taught elementary for two years, but when I started teaching middle school math, I needed help,” Banks said. “I reached out to Dr. Trena Wilkerson, my professor at Baylor. Not only did she talk to me, she sent me a care package full of activities for teaching math. She is the reason I chose Baylor for my doctoral degree.”
Today’s Baylor students also learn through research. Every School of Education senior completes an “action research” project based on a “wondering” in their classroom. Topics have included supports for struggling learners, incentives for distracted students, and enhanced curriculum for gifted children. Interns map out possible solutions and test them in practice.
This process allows future teachers to investigate the impact of their teaching practice in real time, Blevins said. “They are engaging in inquiry, gathering data, and thinking authentically about how to improve their practice,” she said. “Baylor is developing practitioners who will reflect on their practice and gather data to improve learning.”
FROM THEORY TO PRACTICE
Connor Galloway, BSEd ’19, a secondary social studies major, leads the team of world geography teachers at Rock Hill High School in Prosper ISD. He also leads Hope Squad, a program of peer-to-peer suicide prevention, teaching two class sections for Hope Squad students. “If we didn’t have this program, hundreds of kids would not have someone to turn to, and friends would not know how to help,” he said.
Galloway said he felt well prepared to take on campus leadership roles. He has already earned a master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of North Texas and is preparing for principal certification exams.
In spring of 2022, Galloway was named Teacher of the Year at Rock Hill High School, which has 2500 students and around 200 faculty. “I give all the credit to Baylor professors, mentor teachers, and others supporting me,” he said. “You can learn all about pedagogy, theory, and content, but until you stand up in the classroom, you don’t know what it is actually like.”
Another important lesson he learned from Baylor faculty is the value of relationships. The best teachers are those who care, he said, and Baylor professors modeled that practice. (Photo of hallway parade by Kyla Lewis, Hill Top News)
During pandemic remote learning, Galloway kept regular office hours on Google Meet for his students in all his classes. Students always showed up but rarely had content questions. “They came just to chat,” he said. “It was great to continue those connections.”
HALLMARK OF GREAT TEACHING
Dr. Christian Winn, executive director of performance management for Spring ISD, attended the Baylor Teacher Career Fair in March; the district offered commitment letters to three Baylor seniors and left with a list of 11 for follow up.
Winn said the district looks for teachers who are student focused, and the level of preparation that Baylor provides definitely gives graduates a leg up.
“That’s a huge plus in my eyes,” she said. “The candidates we interviewed all exhibited passion for teaching, passion for students, and a great sense of themselves as educators. When I present a scenario with a challenge, and the first part of the candidate’s answer is focused on students and students’ needs, that’s a good sign.”