“You don’t work for me, you work with me,” master teacher, Tami Saiki, of Torrance’s Seaside Elementary summed up the collaborative goal of the master teacher experience at the Master Teacher Institute held this summer in Seal Beach.
At the institute, over 100 area Multiple Subject Credential and Education Specialist Credential program master teachers gathered, along with university supervisors, faculty, and school site administrators to celebrate the work and support provided by master teachers through a day of professional development opportunities.
Master teachers form one half of a vital clinical practice partnership with College of Education student teachers who work at the master teacher’s school site, gradually assuming teaching responsibilities with careful coaching and feedback. Participating school sites commit to hosting and supporting student teachers in partnership with a master teacher, and several sites often support multiple student teachers. The master teacher serves as mentor, partner, and coach guiding the student teacher’s growth in teaching content, lesson planning, classroom management, differentiating instruction, monitoring progress, and providing critical feedback about teaching methods and techniques used. In tandem with the student teacher’s College of Education coursework, a successful clinical placement with a master teacher helps a novice teacher candidate to develop and refine their teaching skills in preparation for their own future classroom. While the student teachers find this culminating experience in their credential program to be an invaluable part of their preparation, the benefits are mutual.
Tim Schugt, a veteran teacher of 30 years and CSULB alum shared his thoughts on the benefits of the partnership, “…students bring in a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of new ideas and sometimes when you’re in your classroom the new ideas don’t permeate [on their own]. …I think it keeps me on my toes, to bring my best forward, because my [own] master teacher certainly did that for me. …She told me that it was part of my own professional responsibility to educate the next generation. So I’ve always taken that as the underlying principle of my duty.”
In celebration of these important clinical practice partnerships, the Master Teacher Institute kicked off with a panel discussion with select master teachers who shared their experiences. Offering advice to prospective and veteran master teachers alike, the panel emphasized the importance of collaboration in a successful partnership. Personal connection as a theme echoed throughout the day in breakout sessions and sidebar conversations, with an emphasis on getting to know their teacher candidates and providing them with individualized care and targeted support.
Panelist Pamela Seguine of Starr King Elementary School in Long Beach has worked with 14 student teachers over her 20 year career. Sharing how her experience as a master teacher has benefitted her career and practice over the years, Pamela remarked, “It makes us stronger [as teachers] because we’re more on our game…I like seeing their take on things and they keep things fresh…it’s so nice to give back and keep that bond with them. I’m still in touch with my student teachers.”
Ultimately, through these critical clinical practice placements and master teacher partnerships, the College of Education prepares and graduates strong teachers who are well prepared to educate students in urban schools. CED graduates can draw upon their direct clinical practice experience to inform their teaching once in their own classroom. Dr. Lori Curci-Reed, Director of the Office of Clinical Practice in the College of Education shared how these clinical practice placements impact the wider community:
As university students are placed in schools throughout the community, they bring not only their personal experiences as a means of support to teaching and learning, but also the educational foundations and methodology that they have gained through their College of Education coursework and experiences. By blending these elements, they are able to infuse new opportunities into classrooms throughout the community, thereby making a lasting impact through time spent in schools. The clinical practice placements make it possible for individuals interested in becoming teachers to be present in classrooms on a daily basis, infusing school environments with new ideas and opportunities for student success, while also decreasing the adult to child ratio in a learning environment. It is truly a win-win in regards to community impact… not only do the university students have the opportunity to learn within the classroom environment, but children are given added support to grow and succeed.
The celebration of these clinical practice partnerships at the Master Teacher Institute created a forum for master teachers to convene, share and learn with each other, and also provided an opportunity for the College to recognize and thank them for their support of our credential candidates. The importance of collaboration remained the focus of the day’s conversations, but master teachers echoed and reinforced each other’s shared sentiment of the rewarding and reciprocal nature of the partnership itself.