I believed Loyola would be the best fit for me due to its focus on both undergraduate and graduate education, as well as the size of the University. Luckily, my feelings turned out to be true.
What are you most excited about in your new role as director of the MAT program?
Working with novice teacher candidates is one the best parts of my job at Loyola, so this new role will provide even more opportunities to work with new teachers. I have chaired the Teacher Education Curriculum Committee over the last few years, so this role will also allow me to take the curriculum revisions accomplished in that committee and ensure that they are enacted in ways that best support our teacher candidates.
What makes Loyola stand out among teacher education programs?
Loyola’s teacher education program provides many aspects that positions us differently than other programs. First and foremost, our Jesuit mission focuses on social justice and the education of the whole person, and our approach to teacher education follows that mission. Therefore, how we build our courses and school partnerships are grounded in this philosophy. Second, our small class sizes afford opportunities to establish close relationships with professors, who serve as mentors throughout the program. Finally, our graduates have a strong reputation in Baltimore and the surrounding counties as being prepared for their first year of teaching, so a large majority are hired by the schools and districts in which they complete their internships.
What is the advantage to Loyola's new one-year MAT format?
Our one-year, full-time MAT program places teacher candidates in classrooms in the second semester, so connections between coursework and practice are immediately made clear. It also creates an opportunity for candidates to begin their careers in a short amount of time. Yet, as opposed to other alternative routes to teacher certification, Loyola maintains the rigor of a complete preparation program along with an understanding of how novice teacher candidates need to experience a full school year as interns, so they are adequately prepared for their first year of full-time teaching.
What does the future of teaching look like? How does Loyola’s MAT program help teachers succeed in that world?
As our communities become more multifaceted in terms of social and cultural diversity, teachers will need to be more knowledgeable and adept at supporting and advocating for students of all backgrounds. Loyola’s commitment to all learners is reflected in the mission and vision of the School of Education, and we extend that commitment to the teaching professionals that join our undergraduate and graduate programs—the MAT program is no different. As a way to meet this goal, our teacher candidates are placed in a variety of school sites for their field experiences and internships that reflect the social and cultural demographics of Baltimore and the surrounding counties.
Technology and digital learning are also shifting how information is accessed and how young people learn. More and more schools are moving toward providing a computer or tablet for every individual student, and a majority of classrooms include multiple ways of presenting and interacting with technology. Therefore, teachers have to be prepared to effectively use this technology to address the how young people are learning through digital avenues. Our professors work diligently on evolving their own digital pedagogies in order to share that knowledge with our teacher candidates.
Why is teaching in Baltimore so important? What about the School of Education’s urban mission and pedagogy speaks to you as an educator?
Loyola’s focus on preparing teachers to meet the needs of all learners follows my own personal philosophy of education. When you consider the history of Baltimore, you see that our youth have particular experiences and backgrounds. They deserve high-quality teachers who understand the opportunity gap that exists due to institutional realities beyond schools and schooling. Our professors confront these realities through their teaching and coursework and desire to ensure that our teacher candidates are also aware of these issues. Moreover, our professors strive to support our teacher candidates to become advocates for Baltimore’s youth, as well as develop their pedagogical skills and knowledge.
Describe some of the teachers who have had an impact on who you are today.
If someone is asked to list five influential people in their lives, invariably one of those five people will be a teacher. The same is true for me, but there have been several that have influenced both who I am as a teacher and as a person. The first was Mr. Kent, my English teacher for my junior year in high school. He was the first teacher in my memory that was completely authentic in the classroom. I could tell that how he acted in his teaching, especially demonstrating his love for British literature, was exactly how he acted outside of school. A second group included my advisors during my Ph.D. program—including Dr. McGinley, Dr. Dutro, and Dr. Wolf—who changed the way I approached higher education teaching, as well as mentored me through my early career as a professor. Without them, I would never have found success as a literacy professor at Loyola.
What is the most valuable lesson you've learned from one of your students?
I learn from my students every time I walk into the classroom. I am constantly reminded to be authentic, caring, and challenging; to enjoy the time spent teaching; to celebrate students’ stories; to take risks.
What is your favorite book and why?
Asking an avid, life-long reader and an English teacher to name his favorite book is like asking an accomplished chef to name a favorite meal. So I’ll just list some of the young adult authors whose work I’ve included in my scholarship in the last few years, including Sherman Alexie, Lois Lowry, Walter Dean Myers, Matt de la Peña, Cory Doctorow, Vera Brosgul, David Levithan, Faith Erin Hicks, Mike Dawson, Maggie Stiefvater, Chris Crutcher, and Nnedi Okorafor.