New courses guide future educators

By Hamid Bendaas

This fall will bring the introduction of the University’s first course sequence geared towards College students interested in education.

The sequence will expand on a class first offered to undergraduates last spring entitled “Schools, Communities, and Urban School Reform” and taught by Kavita Kapadia Matsko (A.M. ’03, Ph.D. ’07) and Sara Stoelinga (A.B. ’95, A.M. ’01, Ph.D. ’04). Stoelinga and Matsko will teach the course again this spring.

The sequence, which will expand on topics covered in the original course, is part of an emerging partnership between the Urban Education Institute (UEI), the Urban Teacher Education Program (UTEP), and the new UChicago Careers in Education Professions (UCIEP). Matsko is the Director of Teacher Preparation at UTEP and Stoelinga is the senior director at the UEI. Nahida Teliani (A.M. ’12), director of UCIEP, has been working closely with Stoelinga and Matsko to create the sequence from the original one-course template. Like the original course, the sequence will be offered through the public policy studies department.

Maria Bavaro, a third-year student and board member of UCIEP, credits her interest in education to the template course.

“Taking [Stoelinga and Matsko’s] class made me realize I want to go into education,” she said, calling it a “phenomenal experience.” She plans to seek a master’s degree through UTEP.

Matsko said she hopes the sequence will induce greater interest in education among undergraduates.

“We need smart individuals with a social justice orientation to enter teaching and the field of education more broadly,” she said. “Ideally, our courses will create a spark for someone to consider a career in the education professions that was not thinking about it before.”

But according to Stoelinga, the spark is already there.

“As a graduate of the College, and as a professor who has taught many courses focused on urban education to undergraduates over the years, I know education electives are in high demand,” said Stoelinga. “Students in the College have serious interest and deep concern for public schooling and a commitment to social justice.”

John Lim, also a third-year board member of UCIEP, believes the course sequence is necessary, considering the demand for Stoelinga and Matsko’s course last year.

“I know last year there were about 20 spots, and about 50 students filled out the essay to apply. There’s definitely high demand and I think this expansion of the program is reflective of that,” he said.

Though priority will be given to UCIEP students for Matsko’s class this spring, the application process and priority status “probably will look different” for the course sequence next year, according to Teliani.

Teliani said she hopes that by offering a team-taught course sequence, as many interested students as possible can take education classes.

Stoelinga is eager for the challenge of meeting the high demand.

“What consistently impresses me about undergraduate students is their passion,” she said. “My takeaway from teaching undergraduates is consistently, ‘We want more courses like this,’ and so that is exactly what we are doing.”