Training the teachers of tomorrow


Zachary Araki/The Lion's Roar

Paula Calderon, dean of the College of Education, reviews files in her office. She and Payton Bryant, university alumna and a teacher at Luling Elementary School, went to Washington, D.C. for discussions about preparing teachers for their career.

Dr. Paula Calderon, dean of the College of Education, and Payton Bryant, university alumna and a teacher at Luling Elementary School, visited Washington, D.C. at the invite of Betsy DeVos, United States secretary of education, to brainstorm about preparing teachers for the classroom.

Calderon described the trip as the chance of a lifetime to showcase the university.

“I feel it went very well,” said Calderon. “I think the U.S. secretary of education truly listened to us. Instead of our being an audience for her, she was truly an audience for us and listened to the graduates of our programs and to the deans.”

Bryant believes that the current education system does not adequately serve students nor prepare, recruit and retain teachers. At the meeting, Bryant and others shared their experiences and ideas on teacher preparation, retention, recruitment and compensation as well as the impact of each invitee’s education program.

“My ultimate goal was to implore secretary DeVos to make my experience commonplace for new teachers in order to prepare them adequately and retain them for years to come,” shared Bryant. “I mainly discussed how pre-service teachers need a chance to fail with a mentor teacher there to guide them because we do not have this chance when we begin in our own classroom. I was so fortunate to have a mentor teacher who held me to the highest of standards.”

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 176,307 bachelor’s degrees in education were conferred in the 1970-71 school year, but this number decreased to 87,217 in the 2015-16 year.

To combat this trend, Bryant would like to see yearlong, student-teaching programs become commonplace in Louisiana.

“I believe that high-quality, data-driven programs, like Southeastern’s, will prepare future teachers for the challenges they will face in the classroom,” stated Bryant. “If they are prepared, they will continue this profession, but if they are not, they will quickly burn out and leave. Residency is what every high-quality teacher preparation program needs. We cannot retain teachers without giving them the tools necessary to be successful in the classroom.”

In her senior year, Bryant participated in the pilot LionsTeach residency program in which she student-taught for a year. Though rigorous, Bryant explained, the program taught adaptability, relationship development and meaningful collaboration.

“This experience put me in the classroom before the students began their school year and kept me there even after graduation,” said Bryant. “This is not a typical program that teacher candidates go through, but it is a necessary one. One of the biggest challenges new teachers face is how to start the school year off effectively, but the residency program allowed me to see this first-hand and prepared me to implement it when I started my first year in August of 2018.”

Calderon discussed the importance of preparing high-quality teachers to enter the profession.

“Teaching requires more than just a warm body in the classroom,” explained Calderon. “Knowledge of content, pedagogy, knowledge of adolescent development and child development, and classroom management are all important, and that’s how we train our teachers at Southeastern. I would like to see all teachers certified through university-based teacher preparation programs, which have historically demonstrated rigor like Southeastern’s.”