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Roaring Fork education project

Aspen Times Staff Report

Organizers of the Roaring Fork Teacher Education Project hope to attract local participants this semester when the program moves operations to the valley.

The program, one of nine learning projects working under the COMPASS umbrella, allows graduates with a bachelor’s degree to seek a license to teach at the middle or high school level. A new semester brings changes to the program – students no longer have to travel to attend classes.

“In the past, our students have had to go to Boulder. Beginning in fall of 2001, we’ll deliver the entire three semesters here in the Roaring Fork Valley,” said Dr. Elizabeth Meador, program director.

The education project, sponsored in part by the University of Colorado-Boulder’s School of Education, was designed as a community-oriented preparation program for teachers. The project differs from most graduate teaching programs because it allows future teachers to become completely involved in all aspects of the education system, Meador said.

“It’s an immersion program,” she said. “Students are either engaged in course work or working in the school or working in a community agency all day, every day.”

Local community service programs receive a lot of help from the program’s students. They spend time with agencies aiding juvenile offenders, the developmentally disabled or children in need of tutoring. Hopefully, these future teachers will then pass their sense of duty on to their students, Meador said.

“We teach our student teachers so they will take their students out into the community to meet real community needs,” she said. “It’s a way of creating a meaningful experience for kids that they can apply to what they’re learning.

The Roaring Fork Teacher Education Project was founded in 1997, after a conference between former COMPASS Executive Director George Stranahan and area educators.

“About five years ago, George Stranahan got together with a few deans of schools of education across the range, and we all talked about how we could bring teacher education to the Western Slope,” Meador said. “The idea behind bringing teacher education to the valley was to create a group of teachers who knew and understood the issues families struggle with in the valley – like cost of living, long commutes – that really have an impact on kids in the classroom.”

Students of the program become involved in local education and begin a community study to see the different opportunities for youth in the Roaring Fork Valley. This allows participants to see the role of the school in society, Meador said, and the way the diversity of society is reflected in schools.

Jennifer Shea, a history and literature student from Mount Holyoke College, completed project course work in December before substitute teaching in the Glenwood Springs school district. Shea said the program introduced her to teaching techniques that would give her students an equal opportunity within the classroom.

“It’s really strong in looking at not only alternative ways of teaching but really focusing on the students and really trying to maintain a sense of social justice,” she said.

The program’s idea of social justice allows the teachers it produces to help children see their roles in the community, Meador said.

“Our real focus is on education and social justice. We think that schools should be a place where kids learn how to be good contributing members to society,” she said.

PULL-OUT BOX INFO: Deadline for fall 2001 Roaring Fork Teacher Education Project enrollment is March 1. For more information, contact Dr. Elizabeth Meador at 923-4080 ext. 208.

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Posted: Monday, February 26, 2001


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