Institute for Urban Education broadens student teachers’ horizons

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Amber Eide, who did her student teaching in Milwaukee through the Institute for Urban Education during the fall semester, works with students in her classroom at Townsend Elementary. (Photo by Troye Fox

The Institute for Urban Education (IUE) is sharing the urban focus of UWM’s School of Education with student teachers from all over the University of Wisconsin system.

Video by Sara Nelson

WATCH: Go inside MPS classrooms as student teachers develop leadership skills and most importantly, a sense of self. (View full size on YouTube.)

The IUE, now housed at UWM on the fifth floor of Enderis Hall, gives student teachers from all UW System Schools and Colleges of Education the opportunity to experience teaching in urban schools.

“I was looking for something that was a little more challenging with more diversity,” says Amber Eide, who came from UW-La Crosse to student teach at Townsend School for the fall semester. “Every assignment I had (before) was much the same, except for the grade level.”

The focus of the IUE program is to give student teachers the opportunity to experience and understand urban education and its diversity. Under the leadership of new director Tracey Nix, the Institute also plans to eventually provide professional development opportunities for those interested in urban education and increase and improve collaborative research efforts on urban education among UW System schools.

Students from the spring contingent of IUE teachers included: Front row (left to right): Kellie Tutkowski, UW-Madison;  Katie Gonzales, UW-LaCrosse; Michele Zampino, UW-Whitewater; Stephanie Sanks, UW-Eau Claire; Kelsey Jeffrey, UW-Eau Claire; Rosemary Gaggioli, UW-Madison; Aimee Pitney, UW-Oshkosh Back row: Ryan St. Martin, UW-Oshkosh;  Matthew Wolfert, UW-Oshkosh Front row (left to right): Kellie Tutkowski, UW-Madison;  Katie Gonzales, UW-LaCrosse; Michele Zampino, UW-Whitewater; Stephanie Sanks, UW-Eau Claire; Kelsey Jeffrey, UW-Eau Claire; Rosemary Gaggioli, UW-Madison; Aimee Pitney, UW-Oshkosh Back row: Ryan St. Martin, UW-Oshkosh;  Matthew Wolfert, UW-Oshkosh

Students from the spring contingent of IUE teachers included: Front row (left to right): Kellie Tutkowski, UW-Madison; Katie Gonzales, UW-LaCrosse; Michele Zampino, UW-Whitewater; Stephanie Sanks, UW-Eau Claire; Kelsey Jeffrey, UW-Eau Claire; Rosemary Gaggioli, UW-Madison; Aimee Pitney, UW-Oshkosh Back row: Ryan St. Martin, UW-Oshkosh; Matthew Wolfert, UW-Oshkosh (Photo by Tracey Nix)

The Institute’s first professional development opportunity on Culturally Responsive Teaching.

The move of the Institute to Milwaukee from Madison, which took place over the summer of 2013, makes sense, says Linda Post, associate professor in UWM’s School of Education who has long been a liaison for UWM, MPS and the System’s IUE. That’s because the mission of preparing teachers for urban schools guides SOE’s teacher preparation programs, and that approach is infused in all of its methods and content courses.

The potential teachers are being placed in MPS, according to Sandra Ivers, the associate director. She notes the program has been growing rapidly, from 29 students last year to the 39 students enrolled for fall semester of 2014.

Many of the students in the program came from predominately white suburban communities, but said they felt their own universities and the IUE programs prepared them for teaching in an urban setting. They also met regularly with each other and the IUE leaders during the semester to compare experiences and share ideas.

inst_urban_ed_j3“I felt the (IUE) seminars really benefitted me,” says Chelsea Schmidt of UW-La Crosse. “I felt prepared.”

Still, they found some surprises.

One was the lack of resources. “I was really surprised by the lack of art and music in school. One school I was at hadn’t had a gym teacher for five years,” says Kassandra Braun of UW-Eau Claire. “They had a library, but hadn’t had a librarian for a long time.”

Another surprise was the lack of diversity of the students in MPS, which has become a “majority minority” school system.

“I wanted diversity, but the only diversity is among the teachers,” noted Julia Herrmann of UW-Madison, wryly.

The students did find cultural differences that were sometimes challenging. Brian Jurchisin from UW-River Falls, who student taught at Bradley Tech, occasionally had difficulty when he didn’t seem to be able to communicate about some issues with African American students.

“I wasn’t sure whether it was culturally based, or because I was white or just because I wasn’t from Milwaukee.”  However, he adds, “it’s surprising how well humor can play a role.  I told a stupid math joke and got an unexpected laugh. I think they didn’t think they could have fun in math class.”

The student teachers agreed they tried to approach their classrooms without preconceived ideas about what an urban classroom or community was like, and often found media stereotypes were not true.

“There are some fantastic teachers who are doing a great job,” says Braun.

“I was a little scared the students would be disrespectful, but I’m at a really good school,” notes Schmidt.

Herrmann found that, contrary to some media stories, the parents of her students were very supportive and involved.

All those student teachers interviewed said they felt their experiences helped them broaden their repertoire of teaching skills. They also shared in the joy of working with their cooperating teachers to help their students.

“The students in the special education program have been put down so much by society in general,” says Braun.  “Just to help them find some success and gain confidence in themselves was so meaningful.”



The Institute for Urban Education (IUE) is holding its first-ever professional development conference at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s School of Continuing Education, 161 W. Wisconsin Ave.  Wednesday, Aug. 13, and Thursday, Aug. 14. Sessions are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Wednesday and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Thursday.

The Institute is a collaborative effort of the University of Wisconsin System, housed in UWM’s School of Education. The IUE gives student teachers from all over the UW System the opportunity to experience and understand urban education and its diversity. The Institute provides professional development opportunities, such as this conference, for those interested in urban education, and plans to increase and improve collaborative research efforts on urban education among UW System schools.

The conference, titled Culturally Responsive Teaching: Classroom Practices for Student-Centered Learning, is designed for Milwaukee Public Schools educators as well as those from surrounding districts. It is also current and prospective cooperating teachers – teachers who welcome student teachers into their classrooms.

Those attending the conference can earn undergraduate or graduate credit. For more information or to enroll, go to http://www4.uwm.edu/soe/community/iue/professional-development.cfm#a0 or contact Robin Pagan at rpagan@uwm.edu or (414) 229-5255.