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ASU receives grant to immerse teacher candidates in communities

children playing on school playground
May 12, 2015

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College iTeachAZ program is nationally recognized for being a leader in classroom instruction for teacher candidates.

Now the teacher preparation program is expanding beyond the school walls and into the communities with a $900,000, three-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation awarded to the ASU Foundation for a New American University in partnership with the Teachers College.

The iTeachAZ Community Embeddedness Project leverages resources at ASU into the local communities to improve early childhood student learning and social development in high-needs school districts across Arizona. Teachers College faculty, staff and teacher candidates will immerse themselves in the homes and community centers – educational, social, cultural and religious – of the students and families they instruct in their classrooms.

“This project will enable us to really dig deeper into the families we serve and be embedded into the community,” said Mari Koerner, dean of the Teachers College and lead investigator on the grant.

Over the next three years, 150 early childhood/special education teacher candidates in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College will participate in the project. The Teachers College staff and faculty is designing a protocol to guide the teacher candidates for the home and community visits. This resource will provide them with a tool to deepen their understanding of the family’s resources, cultural expectations and priorities, in order to utilize that knowledge to improve instruction of their young students in the short and long term while also supporting culturally relevant communication between teachers and families.

Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected to inform Teachers College methods, assessments and clinical field experience courses.

By learning more about the communities where young students learn and live, the project will cultivate stronger insight into how the future teachers in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College can serve young students in high-need, ethnically, economically and culturally diverse schools; effectively engage the parents in their children’s education; and increase the school readiness and academic and social outcomes of their students.

“Through this model we will prepare pre-service and in-service teachers to successfully engage in any community in which they teach,” Koerner said. “We will learn from the members of community, and they will learn from us.”

Written by Michael Hegarty