UMSL hosts ‘Learning to Teach’ conference for teacher educators

UMSL’s ED Collabitat played host to the two-day “Learning to Teach” conference, attended by nearly 90 representatives from teacher preparation programs from around the country. (Photo by Michael Butler)

Part of the challenge in preparing the next generation of educators is keeping up with what the broader field is learning about best practices in teacher preparation.

The experience for teacher candidates in the University of Missouri–St. Louis College of Education, for example, is different than those seeking licensure through a program such as the Boston Teacher Residency, where teachers enter classroom settings as “residents” almost immediately after starting the program. So there is value in getting a diversity of practitioner voices under one roof to learn from one another.

UMSL served as the host to one such opportunity at the “Learning to Teach” convening, organized by the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, from June 6-7 in the ED Collabitat on South Campus. Nearly 90 educators from 46 organizations spanning 18 states and the District of Columbia convened for two days of presentations and working sessions on the latest trends in teacher education.

“It really cracks open the discussion in ways that you don’t get into at other conferences,” said UMSL Associate Professor Nancy Singer, chair of the college’s Department of Educator Preparation and Leadership. “Oftentimes, we go to conferences with people who are like us. When you see people who come at this work from a very different perspective, it certainly adds a lens to think about. Everybody has a similar vision: We want to produce the highest quality teachers, especially in the times of great teacher shortage that we’re in.”

The Schusterman Foundation has held 14 invitation-only “Learning to Teach” events since 2009. UMSL has participated in the conferences for the past five years and served as host for the first time this summer.

This year’s presentations focused on a theme of teacher preparation programs emphasizing College- and Career-Ready Standards in their candidate instruction. CCRS-aligned instruction deals more with what students should know and be able to accomplish while learning academic content, rather than particulars of curriculum.

The ED Collabitat’s workspaces served as the venues for breakout sessions on a spectrum of topics. Representatives from university programs such as UMSL, Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Berkeley led collaborative learning sections, as did teams from nonprofits such as Teach For America and the New York City-based Student Achievement Partners.

“It is about connecting people and work that is happening across the country to each other, so that we can learn together,” said Ambler Ochstein, education portfolio manager at the Schusterman Foundation. “We invite a number of organizations that are serving the field of teacher preparation in a variety of ways to be in this conversation. There was a ton of gratitude for being able to hold our event at UMSL – the space itself and the people we got to work with, who were incredibly competent and generous. Also, being able to highlight the work happening in the College of Education at UMSL was a really exciting opportunity.”

UMSL’s session, presented by Senior Director of Clinical Experience and Partnerships Stephanie Koscielski and Associate Professor April Regester, centered on the UMSL teacher preparation program offering candidates field experience with community-based organizations during their time in school.

“It really gets us in with scholars and programs we might not see or associate with in other professional venues,” Singer said. “This gives us an opportunity to really hear from thinkers who may be doing work similar or quite different from us, so we can think about if these are the kinds of things we’d like to take up at UMSL.”


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