Our major of the month for August is Education. To learn more about the Education Unit at Ursuline College, we interviewed the co-directors of the Education Unit, Dr. Mary Jo Cherry and Dr. Jim Connell. Cherry and Connell both shared valuable information about why being an education major at Ursuline is so special.
What are some things that you learn in an education class that help you for the rest of your life?
Jim Connell: I guess I would start by saying that you really do get in touch with who you are and who you are going to be. We emphasize that quite a bit – it is important, if you’re going to be an effective leader, to really know yourself. That’s just essential. You deepen the understanding of yourself so that you can be an effective leader.
Mary Jo Cherry: And I would say that’s probably similar in teacher education.
If you were talking to people that had a negative image of people in education or education majors in general, what would you want those people to know about education majors?
Mary Jo Cherry: I would say, speaking for undergrad, they are very dedicated and they want to work with kids. They are very hard working. A lot of our undergrad education majors are athletes, and a lot of them work full-time or part-time. You can’t be in this major and not be dedicated. They don’t get many electives, if any at all. It’s not for the faint of heart. These students, in addition to their coursework on campus, they’re out in the schools from their very first semester. As an example, the special education majors, before they even get to student teaching, have clocked a minimum of 365 additional hours. They’re really dedicated and they’re committed to doing what’s best for kids.
Jim Connell: I would go in a couple directions there also. Mary Jo ended with discussing hours. In both of our field courses, we exceed the minimum you see at some other institutions. If someone has a negative image, I’m not so sure that I can change that. But, what I can tell them is that the people who are in education operate out of a high sense of commitment and a strong sense of personal satisfaction from what they do. They really do enjoy it.
Mary Jo Cherry: The other thing I can mention is that our graduates see themselves in a profession, and they see themselves giving back as part of their professional responsibility. Our undergraduate advisory board has some of our undergrad graduates, but we also have educational administration graduates, who just happen to end up on our board because someone nominated them. They are absolutely wonderful. Educators are by and large a very committed group. They see themselves not only as working in the profession but also giving back. There’s a wonderful sense of community.
Any tips for current education students, future education majors, or recent graduates of Ursuline’s programs?
Mary Jo Cherry: I always say get as much experience around the children you want to teach as you can, so age level, developmental level. So for my students, I usually say it doesn’t matter what you do with them, just be sure you want to do this. Get as much experience as you can. The other thing I say is be willing to move where the jobs are. If you’re in a position to move, there are teaching jobs all over the country. I suggest that they be open to charter schools, private schools, parochial schools, and public schools, because you need to get your foot in the door and you need experience. If you’re always doing what you truly believe is the best for children, you won’t be hurting anybody.
Jim Connell: I think I would go a different way. I simply say to people that you want to look around and pick a program that has success and a network. We work to make sure people are in a place that they can get jobs, and we help them network at all times. Look for not just the beginning of the program, but the end.
Mary Jo Cherry: We really do work as much as possible with individuals, as opposed to a group of people in a class. The whole institution, not just our unit, not just our programs, walks the talk. We are really here for you, and you are not a number. There are at least three students who are currently in the educational administration graduate program that went through our teacher education undergraduate program.
I want the students to know a little bit more about you. What is your favorite part of teaching education classes?
Mary Jo Cherry: It’s the students I teach. That’s it. I love being with the students, and it’s energizing, it’s fun, and I just enjoy it.
Jim Connell: Mary Jo was talking about enthusiasm. I always present the Ralph Waldo Emerson quote “Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm.” I can be excited about teaching curriculum development, but it’s making the students enthusiastic about it that’s the key. It’s getting the students excited about what they’re learning.
Mary Jo Cherry: We do our administrative duties, but we only do it because we can still teach. I bring stickers, and pencils for every occasion. And I love sharing stories. I warn them that anything they say in class, I’ll have a story about it.