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Video Highlights Program Preparing Teachers for Diverse Students, Settings

A new video in AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series shows education leaders from Fort Collins High School and Colorado State University discussing their work to prepare teacher candidates for special education situations and other diverse student needs. From understanding IEPs to tapping school-based counseling resources to differentiating instruction in both mainstreamed and self-contained classrooms, the program strives to expose candidates to a wide variety of students and settings, say Josh Richey, dean of students at the high school, and Wendy Fothergill and Juliana Searle, program advisers.

Today’s classrooms are more diverse than ever, and educator preparation programs such as those at Colorado State University (CSU) strive to give prospective teachers experiences across varied communities, in different school models, and with a broad range of students, including those with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) for special education.

Bringing teacher candidates into contact with this diversity is an important component of Colorado State University’s Center for Educator Preparation program. Throughout their program, candidates are exposed to a wide variety of students, schools, classroom types, and even colleagues. The surrounding community has more socioeconomic and ethnic diversity than many realize, says Juliana Searle, an instructor and adviser in the program, with upper-middle class as well as pockets of high poverty, and racial/ethnic minority communities. In addition, the various partner schools have different support structures and special education models that afford candidates varied experiences.

Searle says this variety means student teachers are better prepared to adapt to the needs of their future school and students when they enter the profession as a new teacher. Moreover, the collaborative culture helps teachers feel more comfortable asking for resources and support from colleagues, says Wendy Fothergill, another program adviser and instructor. “It’s the teachers who become the experts,” Fothergill says. “It’s them holding themselves accountable for their students and becoming their students’ anchor.”

According to Josh Richey, dean of students at CSU partner Fort Collins High School, one of the biggest challenges for new teachers is meeting the widely varying needs of students in special education, who make up about 10% of a typical classroom. By giving candidates as much practice as possible and preparing them to understand the legal aspects of special education and other common stumbling blocks, the program helps them learn to manage their classrooms effectively and devote more attention to tailoring their instruction and resources to the needs of the individual students.

Want to learn more? Hear from Richey, Fothergill, and Searle in the Research-to-Practice Spotlight here.

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Hannah Maes

AACTE Marketing Coordinator Intern