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Clinical Practice Builds Profession-Ready Candidates, Engaged Community

Five new videos are available this week in AACTE’s Research-to-Practice Spotlight Series highlighting clinical preparation and partnerships of the Butler University (IN) College of Education. In these final videos of the series, Butler faculty, students, and partners reflect on the network of relationships that support their work, the contributions of community businesses and mentors, the benefits gained by mentor teachers, and the profession-readiness of Butler graduates.

The clinical practice programs of Butler University’s College of Education leverage connections among several partners to support their common vision. Both the college and its PK-12 partners extol the benefits of their symbiotic relationship.

For Butler’s teacher candidates, instructor Cathy Hargrove says, the clinical partnerships are essential. “I don’t think that we can do our work well without the teachers we have here at the school and the support they provide for our students,” she says. Both preservice teachers and faculty embedded in the Butler Lab School enjoy the rich, inquiry-oriented environment with access to a range of student needs and learning scenarios.

Cooperating teachers like Abby Bucher of the Lab School – herself a Butler alumna – value the professional support from the university, which continuously provides resources and advice. Other partners say they benefit from the clout that comes with associating with a known strong program. “Prior to our partnership with Butler, St. Mary’s did really good work, but we were a tiny little entity,” says Connie Sherman, executive director of St. Mary’s Child Center. “When Butler came along,” she says, “People started noticing us and understanding who we were.”

In addition, working with preservice teachers injects a spark of fresh energy in the building and compels mentor teachers to revisit their core beliefs as they answer questions and reflect with their interns. Says science teacher Abby Solstis of Shortridge High School, “It’s really good to get back and remember the things that I believe in.” While teachers are often too busy to reflect much on their practice, working with Butler’s candidates compels them to do so. “Taking that time away to explain your practice has been enlightening for me.”

Joe Lampert, director of human resources for Pike Township, says Pike High School’s teachers are learning from the preservice teachers as well as mentoring them. “Some of our teachers have been around a long time, and they may not have the technology savvy that a lot of these Butler kids have,” he says. “They’re learning that new pedagogy, these new trends, and it really helps us out. [But] the bottom line is it’s good for our kids.”

While school-university partnerships form the heart of clinical practice work, it’s also important to cultivate strong relationships in the wider community. For Butler’s College of Education, one such valuable partner is PNC Bank, whose multimillion-dollar, nationwide “Grow Up Great” program supports the early-childhood work of the Butler Lab School. Bank Vice President Jeff Krucer works closely with Butler Dean Ena Shelley as well as Lab School leaders to match their needs with volunteers from his company as well as funding. He also serves on the college’s Board of Visitors and works to connect their work with others seeking to elevate early childhood education in the region and on the state’s legislative agenda.

Another community partner on the College of Education’s Board of Visitors – or rather, who served in that capacity until she was invited to become a trustee of the university – is U.S. District Court Chief Judge Jane Magnus Stinson. Stinson is not only a cheerleader for the Lab School but a formal mentor as well, investing extensive time and care in a student in need of extra support while his parents were involved in the criminal justice system. She says even before the child’s family situation stabilized, he had developed a strong sense of stability thanks to the school itself. “Without that school, I’m not sure he could have progressed to the place where he has,” she says.

In addition to benefiting the PK-12 students and teachers, Butler’s rich partnership environments support the preparation of teachers who are more ready for their own classroom than other novices. The time candidates spend in effective clinical settings helps them transform from student to professional more adeptly. “When you have strong clinical partnerships, one of the things that happens is you can see when a preservice teacher starts to shift from seeing themselves as a student toward being the teacher in the classroom, and we see that shift happen earlier,” says Professor Shelly Furuness. “They are truly impacting student learning in a way that capable teachers are able to.”

Butler’s candidates even get a leg up on their job hunt thanks to their extended “audition” time in the schools. At the Lab School, preservice teachers work alongside a staff composed of Butler alumni and know that candidates frequently are hired straight out of their preparation program, which also happens at other clinical sites. Pike High School Master Practitioner Rick Mitchell describes it as “a little bit like an interview – all year long. So I look at what students who are student-teaching here will fit here well.”

Catch up on all of the Butler University videos on AACTE’s Video Wall and through these blogs:

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Shardae Proctor

AACTE Media Relations Intern