A New Pathway to Teaching: An Education Diversity Experience Taking Shape in Maryland Schools

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Frostburg State University alumna Brianna Hopkins teaches math at Gwynns Falls Elementary School in Baltimore. Photo courtesy of Coppin State University

Sometimes you have to let programs simmer for awhile until they’re ready. I’ve been waiting for this day to come for over a year, when Frostburg State University faculty were excited about a new federally grant-funded program. It was promising that they were part of a Coppin State University-led program that just received a $3.6 million infusion from the U.S. Department of Education.

Today we’re at the point we’re ready to share and demonstrate the promise of the program with a success story and the launch of the first phase of the program. We packaged this feature I wrote with the press release we distributed with Coppin to show two sides of the program: the nuts and bolts and then the human interest story.

Like the program itself, the communication of Pathways to Professions (P2P) is a joint venture with FSU and CSU’s media relations offices working as one.

The human interest story also includes key information about P2P so readers can grasp this mammoth undertaking. Expect to hear more about P2P over the next five years and beyond. The hope is that this a model for other universities and K-12 school districts.

By Charles Schelle

When Brianna Hopkins needed a student to behave, she thought staring down the student with a stern look might do the trick.

In Baltimore’s Gwynns Falls Elementary School, it worked flawlessly. At Mount Savage Elementary School, located in a small Allegany County town, the student giggled. Lesson learned for Hopkins.

“It was funny because she said ‘Miss Hopkins, why are you looking at me like that? Is there something in your eye?’” said Hopkins, a 2017 graduate of Frostburg State University. “I thought that it was funny because it was such a culture difference.”

That’s the point of a new U.S. Department of Education grant-funded program implemented through Coppin State University and Frostburg State University: to allow teacher candidates be prepared for anything in any classroom. It’s called Pathways 2 Professions and has officially launched this fall.

Maryland is in many ways a miniature America with snowy mountains in the west transitioning to farmland and urban cities and then to sandy beaches along the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean. The population is as diverse across the state as the geography, and if teacher candidates can figure out how to scale unfamiliar terrain in two starkly different Maryland classrooms, they can teach anywhere in the country.

To make this program possible, Coppin State and Frostburg State — both part of the University System of Maryland—collaborated to redesign curriculum to improve teacher effectiveness and student success. Their efforts resulted in a proposal where Coppin State was awarded a five-year, $3.6 million Teacher Quality Partnership Grant to develop the Frostburg State partnership.

Dr. Yi Huang, associate dean/associate professor of CSU College of Arts & Sciences and Education is the author and principal investigator of the grant. Dr. Kim Rotruck, acting associate dean of FSU’s College of Education, is the co-principal investigator. Both are joined by several other faculty members from both institutions as well as partners with various agencies to design the program.

“Teachers are the single most important factor in terms of impacting if a student can learn and improve or not,” Huang said. “By improving teacher effectiveness, you have a much greater chance to improve student learning. That was the ultimate goal. We have a greater goal of inclusive excellence.”

The challenge was worth pursuing for faculty at Coppin and Frostburg to take prospective teachers out of their comfort zones to expand their skillset by managing classrooms in a different part of the state, Rotruck said.

“FSU instructors believe their students need every opportunity to meet the challenges of today’s classroom. We want to provide as many opportunities for their success,” Rotruck said. “This Coppin partnership has definitely changed their perspective and allowed them to grow as teachers.”

 

 

How Pathways 2 Professions Works

 

To understand how teacher candidates can work outside of a system, it’s important to know how they work within a system to become a teacher.

Maryland has a Professional Development School Network that identifies at which K-12 schools teacher-candidates can complete their required 100-day internships. Those schools are affiliated with a higher education institution within their region.

FSU, for instance, has partner schools in Allegany County, Washington County, western Frederick County and eastern Garrett County. CSU’s network extends to a several Baltimore city schools in a one-to-three-mile radius of the campus.

CSU and FSU, both with nationally accredited teaching programs, ensure that the schools and teachers they work with in these K-12 PDSN sites are meeting standards to teach future teachers. Also, it helps that the schools are in a defined area to prevent, for example, a Garrett County teacher having to drive to Ocean City for a required site visit.

The multi-layered P2P program provides an additional opportunity to the 100-day internship to practice teaching to a different demographic in a contrasting geographical setting in Maryland by establishing support at each university and PDSN sites. The Coppin-Frostburg partnership works because it’s a defined set of schools, along with college faculty familiar with each other who worked together to define standards and expectations of what this would look like.

These one-week internships take place following the education majors’ six-week internship at their home institution’s professional development schools. Students also complete group site visits to partner schools earlier in the process.

“We tried many different models of people observing and spending time in Baltimore classrooms, but we never found a collaborative model that is so well coordinated to provide these students with experiences beyond observation,” Rotruck said. “Now they are participating in diverse environments.”

These teacher candidates examine their own stereotypes, their background, upbringing and misconceptions about teaching in urban or rural schools and check them at the door.

“Until somebody asks you to do it, you don’t think about how your culture influences your instruction and your decision making,” said FSU Professor of Educational Professions Dr. Janet Mattern, who is the FSU site director for P2P.

Here’s how students unpack how their personality and way of life influences their teaching:

 

  • In the first phase, FSU and CSU education majors will conduct site visits at professional development schools to observe classrooms and gain initial exposure to schools in a different part of the state. The first visits will take place in October.
  • FSU and CSU students collaborate on assignments online through Blackboard and work on developing curriculum together.
  • In the second phase, planned for the spring of 2018, FSU students have a one-week internship, or residential clinical rotation, in an urban professional development school near Coppin. CSU students do the same at a FSU professional development network school. Teacher-candidates must complete P2P competency-based activities in order to be part of this experience. The first clinical rotations are planned for spring 2018.

Students who successfully complete components of the program are awarded P2P MicroCredentials that will appear on their transcripts to show they acquired specialized skills through this unique experience. The pilot implementation of the P2P MicroCredentials in Teaching Effectiveness will begin in fall 2017 at CSU and FSU. Plans are in the works to develop MicroCredentials that teacher candidates could earn during their two-year induction phase, and convert into Continuing Professional Development credits for teacher certification.

 

 

From Big Savage Mountain to Baltimore

 

When students traded places in a pilot clinical round, their perceptions changed.

FSU students learned why Baltimore public schools require uniforms, experienced a city where minorities are the majority, and saw students facing the same issues that students in Western Maryland face. CSU students could see the effects of poverty in some rural communities and the lack of racial diversity in K-12 schools.

“One of the students’ assumption was that African American students would face economic challenges. In rural areas that are predominately white, poverty is still a major aspect that impact a student’s life, emotional development,” Huang said. “That’s one thing that they were able to connect to — that students faced challenges in rural and urban environments.”

The experiences help teacher candidates make adjustments. That could be something as little as enforcing certain classroom rules like raising a hand to ask or answer a question or if certain students are more comfortable with using a tablet instead of pen and paper, Mattern said.

“Until you start unpacking those things, you don’t even realize you do it because it’s just a part of who you are,” Mattern said. “What do you value? What do you believe? The way you were raised influences every interaction you have.”

The program isn’t intended to make teachers feel like they have to have all the answers, said Dr. Boyce Williams, interim dean for FSU’s College of Education.

“You give them the tools they need, not to be able to solve all the problems children come with but to have been exposed to best practices and to know that I need to seek help,” such as from a school nurse or psychologist, Williams said. “I’m expected to teach all students, but I can’t be everything to all. But I certainly ought to know and identify when there is some type of need, an issue or a challenge, and be able to go to the resources for support.”

 

‘They want to be loved’

 

Hopkins, a Baltimore resident, was part of a pilot test of the program before the official launch, teaching at Gwynns Falls Elementary in Baltimore and at Mount Savage Elementary School, outside of Frostburg. She also interned at Route 40 Elementary School in Garrett County, where she opened up the eyes of some rural, white children.

“I had kids who were brushing my skin because they thought my skin was going to feel different because it was brown. I didn’t mind, and I was happy to share with them that we’re all humans,” said Hopkins, who is African American.  “We have different shades of skin but that doesn’t matter. You get hungry, I get hungry. You get thirsty, I get thirsty. If someone says something mean to you, it hurts your feelings. The same with mine. It was nice to have that experience.” 

Hopkins learned how much and how little race is part of the conversation in education. Hopkins grew up in Catonsville and attended a predominately white elementary school. She said she had to adjust to the culture in middle school, which was more of a diverse melting pot, then adjust again at a predominately African American high school in Baltimore city, Baltimore Polytechnic Institute. Her schooling background taught her a lot, but it’s another aspect to teach students accustomed to certain environments.

The young students Hopkins taught were not fixated on race, she said.
“I realized after this internship that children don’t see color unless you make it a big deal. They just want to be loved, regardless if it’s Allegany County or Baltimore City Public Schools,” Hopkins said. “They just want to learn, and they want to be loved.”

That’s the key: that all children deserve to be taught and to feel validated. And if teacher candidates like Hopkins can recognize that, the program will be a success by improving both teachers and students.

“Brianna will be able to teach anywhere. The idea is that sometimes urban and rural schools are very similar but also very different,” Huang said. “The idea is now they have the advantage over the typical teacher preparation program. They actually have that kind of experience.”

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En Vogue In The Burg

The diverse student population at Frostburg State University is creating some exciting opportunities for students they are bringing here from the city.

Modeling and a general interest in fashion is one of them. It’s an interesting intersection of the country meets the city, with two distinct modeling clubs at FSU. Both clubs are thriving in their own ways and are producing successful alumni. It’s really incredible considering FSU does not have any fashion programs, whether it be design or merchandising.

This story, appearing in the latest edition of Profile, focuses on one alumna, Imena de Barros, who you’ve might have seen in your Sunday paper. Click on the story link for a related sidebar on two other fashionable alumni.

 

IMENA LIKE WOW:
ONE OF THE FOUNDERS OF VISUAL COUTURE LIVING HER DREAM LIFE

By Charles Schelle

Every day is a bit of a surprise for Imena de Barros ’12.
At 5 p.m., she has her schedule for the following day in her hand. Is it a shoot for Macy’s? Footwear casting call? A ight to Europe for work? No wonder her Instagram handle is @Imenalikewow.

The easy-going Bobcat is in the Big Apple now, living the not-easy life as a professional model.

But before she started getting calls to model on the department store circuit in ads for Belk, Bon- Ton, Kohl’s, Macy’s, Sears and Target, de Barros earned her busi- ness degree from FSU, a backup plan after she was told in high school that modeling was not in her future. Coming to FSU eased that initial pressure and opened up doors.

“I honestly fell in love with Frostburg the moment I got there,” she said.

A willing learner, she knew what she wanted to get out of her classes.

“I was the person sitting in front of the class, eager to learn and wanting to be there,” she said. “One time a teacher tried to put me in the back, and I was like, ‘Yeah, no.’ I had to talk to him after class. ‘Dude, I’m a nerd! I have to be in the front!’”

That thirst for knowledge prepared her to enter one of the most competitive occupations in the world, where clients have strict needs from their models, including height, weight, hairstyle and smile, to serve their carefully calculated advertising campaigns.

“I try to be as approachable as possible,” she said. “I try to be as open-minded and free- spirited, doing whatever it takes to make the client happy.”

Building Confidence

Before turning pro, de Barros was part of a budding fashion scene at FSU. at scene has since taken hold, and

the campus now has two active and distinct student organizations focused on fashion, Visual Couture Runway Modeling and Paparazzi Perfect.

De Barros’ early involvement with Visual Couture as a founding member is a memory that she’ll carry with her the rest of her life, including meeting her best friends there. It’s also how she met her boyfriend, Alexander Dominguez ’12, who also models professionally.

“We were best friends in college, and we never thought that we would be doing this together,” she said.

The clubs also serve as a formi- dable training ground for future models.

“It gives you an opportunity to express yourself,” de Barros said. “A lot of people in the fashion industry are very creative. … It de nitely broke me out of my shell.”

For example, Visual Couture o ers Couture Clinics to train members on new techniques. It helps the young women and men involved build con dence.

“We spend time building con – dence through how you walk, how you talk, how you show yourself through those looks,” said Visual Couture president Elizabeth Morafa, a senior. “We’re all about con dence through fashion.”

The Business of Being a Model

Before de Barros earned her degree, she ew to South Beach during her senior year spring break to make one last go of becoming a professional.

“I went to every single modeling agency that came to mind. I did a lot of research and everyone said no again,” de Barros said. “Except on my very last day, the very last agency I went to was Next. They gave me a contract on the spot, and I cried like a baby!”

She soon left Miami for her rst job, modeling for German retailer Otto.

De Barros needs representa- tion in each market. Agencies coordinate to avoid con icts or seek higher-paying gigs. De Barros is also represented by Wilhelmenia in Miami, MGM in Hamburg, Germany, and Q Management in New York and Los Angeles.

Passport to Her Dreams

While she already had the bub- bly personality and good genes, FSU helped prepare de Barros.

Promoting student events for the Social Marketing Team enhanced her experience, too.

“When I was with Missy Martz ’95, we were always on Twitter, trying to get the campus com- munity involved,” de Barros said. “Taking what she taught us in a small community and applying it to the world, I have to get every- body on my side and not just a small community like Frostburg.”

Managing social media is part of her job, and in some cases, it a ects whether she will get a job. De Barros has more than 8,000 followers on Instagram. For some, that’s perfect because that number tells clients that she has a local
or regional audience. For others, they demand at least 10,000 followers before considering a model.

rough it all, De Barros feels like she’s living the dream, feeling those “Is this real?” moments traveling to exotic locales like
the Maldives and Mauritius. She needs a new passport now from all of her traveling, and she hopes someday a shoot with Victoria’s Secret or Sports Illustrated is in the o ng.

“I’ve never been happier in my life,” she said. “I am so thankful to be able to wake up and do something that I love.”

It’s good to be Imena.

Getting Your Steps In For Pics

Some days we al need a little extra motivation.

Fortunately my Fitbit tells me I need to get off my duff and do some walking. It’s also a good reminder that I need to go outside and take some photos students around campus.

There are only a handful of days when you can get those great marketable shots because of how the semester falls here in Western Maryland. The trees don’t bloom until a couple weeks before classes end. By that time, the April showers are in full effect.

The summertime turns the campus into a ghost town. A handful of classes are held with a couple providing opportunities for shots, typically off campus. Otherwise, FSU is your summer camp headquarters for anything from basketball, marching band, STEM students and orchestra.

In the fall, you have to hope the leaves turn and stay before the wind gusts blow away your chances of autumn shots. In the winter, finding a day where there’s enough snow on the ground for students to play in without having classes canceled is a game of chance. Too much snow means employees, including myself, can’t come to work.

Last week, we had a few good days. One perfect day happened to be the final day of classes. Our Upper Quad had just about everything I was looking for: a sleeping student and the university’s Rock Climbing Club finding new ways to exercise. Topped it off with two students relaxing with Starbucks at the Echo Circle and I called it a day.

 

College Engineering Project Opens, Closes Windows With 3D Printers

It’s best to have students to share their work in their own words when possible.

Just the way they talk, their presence and what they do can resonate a lot more than a feature story or a video narrated by someone else.

One mechanical engineering student at Frostburg State, Levi Hartsock, clearly explained his team’s creation — an automatic power window for the home with rain or wind detection.  They even came up with a name: Window Wizard! While the invention itself is rad, the highlight is that components were made using 3D printers at the university.

Levi needed minimal coaching on what to explain, but he did so with charisma and ease. It’s a treat doing these types of videos. All I do is tell the student what chunk to explain next and then stop. It helps prevent rambling and makes editing easier, too.

It also showed that we should do more videos with mechanical engineering majors. They work using CAD programs that can animate their design. One student spent nine hours animating an entire home with this CAD program to show all windows closing on their own. I took his video and popped it in AfterEffects to add rainfall to drive the point across, too.

Personally, I’d like this personal prototype window for my apartment right now. I can’t tell you how many times I leave the windows up for air while I leave for work and a surprise rain storm decides to water my floors.

When Reporting Feels Like Speed Dating

Sometimes gathering content for public relations purposes can be as if not more hectic than reporting.

You’re going to hear about one of those.

Every spring, FSU has an undergraduate and a separate graduate research symposium to show off students’ in-depth projects. Our office hears about several of the research projects during the academic year and writes about them, but others fall through the cracks or the projects are just coming to a point of being reportable.

A couple weeks before, we receive a print-out of a the program with abstracts, student names and advisors. A co-worker and I sift through the program and divvy up who’s going where. Students are set up in a assembly hall with poster presentations, so it’s a lot like going to a conference or a networking event, or yes, speed dating.

Continue reading When Reporting Feels Like Speed Dating

Training for Service with a Smile


Students need to know how to use their leadership skills before leading in the best way that they can.

That’s why Frostburg State University places an emphasis on preparing freshmen as leaders. No matter the student organization, there are opportunities to lead.

At the same time, there is a call to service for these students.

In the fall, 80 freshmen were whisked about an hour away from campus to a bucolic campground in Stoystown, Pa., so they can learn more about themselves and how they work with other people through team-building exercises.

I completed a story used for the Alumni eNews and packaged it with photos I shot and a video I produced, to help round it out so you can get a feel for what’s going on.

My favorite moment captured is the honesty from student Alexis Thomas. It shows you how aware students are of the branding and marketing by colleges and universities to attend. FSU’s tagline is “One University. A World of Experiences” and had an ad campaign to go with it.

“I have a better idea of what Frostburg is about,” said the Bowie resident and biology major. “When they show us the video about how they are one community, I thought they were just saying that to get us to come here. But I see that the professors here, the advisors here, really care, and they really want their students to do well and graduate on time.”

A big part of this trip is to train students who signed up to be a part of ECHOSTARS, which stands for Empowering Communities Helping Others: Service Through Action, Resources and Sustainability. It’s quite the mouthful, but it’s a residential volunteer program at FSU offered through AmeriCorps. FSU also sponsors an AmeriCorps program for Western Maryland.

Here’s an excerpt from Beth Bair, FSU’s National Service coordinator with ECHOSTARS about the experience:

“The goal is to help the students dig deep into their strengths,” Bair said. “All of them have completed the StrengthsQuest Survey, which is part of the Gallup program we do at Frostburg State. Once they learn their top strengths, it’s a matter of what their strengths reveal about them and applying it to this weekend.”

When the students return to FSU, the lessons and experience will serve them well in student organization leadership roles, Bair added, whether it’s working at the Lane University Center, leading a Greek organization or being involved in community service.

Here’s the story in its entirety:

Continue reading Training for Service with a Smile