by Nick Good
Valerie Park, associate professor of education, is retiring at the end of the academic year. The education department is in the process of adapting to Park’s retirement.
“I don’t think there’s going to be much of a struggle with it because in education, you have to adapt. Education is adapting. You either sink or swim,” said Hannah Sharpless, a junior with a program of emphasis in PreK-4 Education and Special Education.
“I don’t think there will be any huge changes. Those who are staying know how it has been done previously in the education department. I believe that whoever steps in wouldn’t change a lot of things because those who are still here understand how things went previously, and they have been successful, so there might be small changes because of a new person in that role, but the changes won’t be significant, I believe,” said sophomore Mitchell Shober.
“We’re all very, very committed to our students. We’re very confident that we’ll make a smooth transition, be it a staff change or a program change. We’re not at this point in time cancelling any classes. Everybody who’s here will be taken care of, and they’ll be able to finish what they’ve started with. Period,” said Fay Glosenger, Dilling professor of early education.
Even with turnover, professors in the education department are confident in its stability. “The minute (the students) think that ‘oh, that course won’t be offered,’ like you hear of other colleges, people have to go in the summer because they have to get closed out of a course. That has never happened here. If somebody needs a course to finish on time, we overload the course. We do an independent study. I mean, people who need required courses do not need to feel at risk,” said Glosenger.
While there is reassurance from the professors, students still expressed concern with the structure of certain courses. “I will have Dr. Park for Language and Literature 1 in the spring. She retires May 2016, and it has been undecided what will happen with Language and Literature 2. Who is going to be the professor for that class? So that personally will affect me in the way that I go from having one professor, and then, in the block above it, I will have someone completely different,” said Sharpless.
Transitions in the education department are very common. “We could not continue to offer elementary education because the state doesn’t do it. However, the people that we had here that were in elementary education, it’s all rolled out with a timeline. We were able to help (the classes before 2009) finish with their (degree). So, it was a very smooth transition,” said Glosenger.
The changes in the education department at Juniata College are not the only education issue. According to Glosenger and Park, the focus should be on the current displacement of teachers and the struggle to produce teachers from Pa. colleges with education departments.
“(The Department of Education) deliberately tried to make it more difficult for people to become teachers. All that testing, because they really only wanted to produce so much. Some of the state schools were hit pretty hard. They had to have a certain enrollment to justify their existence, so they’ve been cutting programs,” said Glosenger.
The number of teacher placements are dwindling. An article from the Daily News on Nov. 2 said, “18,950 teaching certificates were issued in 2012-2013 and that number took a steep decline into 2014-2015, when only 7,180 certificates were issued.”
Finding a replacement during the current education struggle is difficult; however, progress is underway. “The education department is in the process of creating a strategic plan. Within the strategic plan, we’re going to be looking at all of the courses we have to offer and whether or not people who are already here can cover those areas,” said Park.
According to Park, the education department’s options are open in regard to looking for new courses to advance students’ educations. “So as we figure out our strategic plan and how we’re moving forward, are there courses that I’m teaching that (Dr. Biddle) may choose to take over? Are there other areas we want to look for that we aren’t covering? So that’s where we’re at right now,” said Park.
Students and staff share the goal of a growing education department. “We want to grow. Maybe not in size, but we want to grow intellectually and just thought wise. We want to get there so we, so the education department is putting out the best teachers you can physically put out,” said Sharpless.
Categories: Volume 97 Issue 5 News