Member Voices: AACTE as a Ceiba Tree
When I first became involved with AACTE, I could not have imagined the influence the organization would have on my career nor the scope of opportunities to contribute to the professional landscape that would follow. For me and so many others, AACTE is like the ceiba, or the tree of life, with deep roots that anchor the profession and a large canopy that sustains myriad resources.
My relationship with AACTE has been a long time in the making, beginning with nascent engagement as a doctoral student in the Holmes Scholars Program. I participated in the first summer policy institute for the Holmes Scholars, organized back then by the Holmes Partnership, George Washington University, and AACTE. That single experience set me on a path toward a wonderful career as a scholar advocate.
Later, as a faculty member working in a non-AACTE-affiliated institution, I remained committed to the ideal of advocacy for educational improvement. Though a junior faculty and solo representative of my college, I joined a state team attending AACTE’s Washington Week and Day on the Hill. Meeting with state representatives in support of sound legislation and regulations to ensure equitable funding and accountability across education preparation programs harkened back to fundamentals I’d learned years earlier as a Holmes Scholar.
Through these experiences, my “big picture” view of the profession flourished. Small wonder I attended the AACTE Leadership Academy when I received my first administrative appointment. Another perspective on advocacy emerged as I learned the importance of local advocacy by “telling your institution’s story.” I came to understand that our colleagues in other professions and state houses don’t fully understand the scope and impact of our work. Without engaging others in meaningful awareness and investment, it is virtually impossible to build needed partnerships and coalitions; the likelihood of community members becoming allies of the profession is minuscule.
Now, as the education dean at an AACTE member institution, I have found AACTE’s broad canopy of resources invaluable. I regularly share with faculty and staff Ed Prep Matters and create forums for team members to participate in the free webinars. The time it takes to participate is a low-cost investment for a big return informing practice across programs. For example, several faculty members and I participated in a Clinical Practice Commission webinar. Following the commission’s progress was instructive, as my institution concomitantly constructed campus-level guidelines for evaluating our clinical practice with a focus on program integration.
Contributing to AACTE through volunteerism has been a natural progression and logical form of advocacy. I conceptualize my contribution as a commitment to the continuous improvement of the profession. I currently volunteer as a member of the Committee on Professional Preparation and Accountability and participate in the Diversified Teaching Workforce: Recruitment and Retention Topical Action Group. I also engage the Holmes Master’s Program students on our campus in related work by encouraging them to contribute at the local level; they recently developed a root cause analysis of minority teacher recruitment for the state of Connecticut.
AACTE membership and engagement are clear acts of stewardship, ones that nurture the profession at its roots while sustaining rich activity throughout its branches.
Dean Jacob Easley II is dean of the School of Education and Professional Studies at Eastern Connecticut State University and immediate past president of the National Association of Holmes Scholars Alumni.