The ECU College of Education Boldly Growing

Scotty Williams, Staff Writer

In 1907, the eastern part of North Carolina was glaringly short of teachers. East Carolina Teacher’s College was founded that year to turn out good teachers to face the gap. That college became ECU, and the university’s education program continued to excel. Today the ECU College of Education is still a leader in producing the best teachers not just for the state, but for the nation.

The College of Education currently has around 3,700 students in programs, and offers bachelors, masters and doctoral degrees, as well as alternative licensure programs, educational specialist certificates and distance education programs to students.

The college proclaims quite a laundry list of honors and distinctions. The program for middle grades mathematics preparation was selected by the US Department of Education as one of only four exemplary teacher education programs in the nation. The NC State Board of Education has declared the college to have an “exemplary professional preparation program,” according to their Higher Education Performance Report. College of education graduates have been recognized as Teachers of the Year at every level, and in 2002 the college was ranked the highest of all the teacher education programs in North Carolina by the State Board of Education.

The college of education’s mission statement declares that it aims to prepare “professional educators and allied practitioners including professionals in business information systems, counseling, electronic media and librarianship.” It claims to also promote effective teaching and work with state agencies to nurture and create the state’s educational policy.

However, the true measure of the college of education lies in the halls of the Speight Building, the only lightly bricked building on campus. On the walls of the building are pictures of classes at the college since its inception, including a picture of the original 1907 building. On the other end of the pictures is a photo of current dean, Marilyn Sheerer experiencing the future of education through technological glasses. This is a microcosm of the college, which stands on its history and works to improve it.

Dean Sheerer said the college has worked from its past and “continued to produce more teachers, administrators and other education professionals for the public schools than any other UNC institution.”

The college of education has not even been a college for very long, as its growth took it from a school to a college in 2003, which demonstrates how it grows even up to now.

The faculty of the college is a group that somehow manages to match the energy of their spirited leader, and their Web site boasts a huge list of accolades that their faculty have received. Since 2003, this faculty has increased 30 percent, and continues to get federal money and donations to keep working for education.

One aspect of the college that keeps growing and services the over 1,200 of the 3,700 students is the distance education program. Yokima Cureton, the Director of Communication for the college, said she feels “our distance education program sets us apart from any other teacher prep programs across the state.”

“We are delivering quality instruction to students across the state in ways that the students want to receive it,” Cureton said.

“We are not delivering ‘one-size-fits-all’ degrees.”

Numbers would certainly agree with Cureton: over 125 faculty members teach more than 100 distance education courses every semester, many of which are entirely on-line, empowering students who are nowhere near Greenville to receive an education. The college of education also supports international exchanges and projects with universities in Russia, Japan and China.

Another part of the college that both Cureton and Sheerer feel is growing and should distinguish ECU’s College of Education from the rest is the use of technology. Technology is important to a teacher in today’s classroom, and the college requires an entire course on the uses of technology in the educational environment.

Sheerer also said “a major advancement in the making is the development of a Center for Applied Research in Education. We want to increase our research productivity and mentor new faculty to become scholars with respect to the field of education.”

ECU’s college also is one of 14 universities in North Carolina with a North Carolina Teaching Fellows Program, which is a scholarship that is given to 400 high school seniors every year to aid them in becoming teachers. This program is specifically designed to produce quality educators to address a critical shortage of teachers in our state.

The ECU College of Education is a part of North Carolina’s effort to improve its educational status, and in many ways is the state’s foremost piece of its effort. Being nationally recognized, the college stands at the forefront of educational efforts, and continues to address the educational gap in North Carolina and the United States with the same energy and enthusiasm with which Dean Sheerer greets new guests in her office.

This writer can be contacted at webeditor@theeastcarolinian.com

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