Christian Diaz, Staff Writer (cdiaz@wwc)
A buzz is spreading across campus about Warren Wilson’s new graduate program, set to begin this summer.
The Masters in Teaching Graduate Program tuition is $16,500 and will admit 15 students from all corners of the country. It is a major draw because it is pioneering new territory in the teaching of education.
Students of the program, upon completion of an intensive hands-on curriculum, will be granted a master’s degree and state license in secondary level education recognized by 38 states. Students will have the opportunity to become high school teachers of math, science, English and social studies.
The program is based on experiential learning, placing emphasis on both theory and practice of education while simultaneously incorporating the values celebrated at Warren Wilson,such as environmental consciousness and cross-cultural understanding.
Grace Mitchell, director of the MAT program and chair of the education department spoke with The Echo.
“The MAT is a program which is very practical and applied,” Mitchell explained. “Students actually spend a year with teachers as opposed to one semester of student-teaching. They do a year-long internship. It is a model we really like, and we hope that a lot of Wilson students will apply,” Mitchell said.
The unique approach is one of the program’s major strengths.
“We have tried very hard to develop a mission statement and a philosophy that very much reflects Warren Wilson,” continued Mitchell. “All of our students will be working under a mentor teacher who either has a national board certification, or a master’s degree, or both. They are the very best teachers that we could find in Asheville and Buncombe County.”
Annie Jonas, faculty member in the education department, helped engineer the new program.
“We realized that this state was really encouraging different ways for people to become teachers,” said Jonas. “Some of the more innovative ones are outside of the mainstream undergrad programs. Warren Wilson is in a unique position to offer this interesting and innovative way to train teachers. Our old model was good, but it was very traditional because it had to be. This is allowing us to try more progressive ideas.”
The most important criterion for applicants to have thought seriously about teaching as a lifelong commitment, not only a passing interest.
“We need a lot of commitment,” said Mitchell. “It’s a very intense program. It’s one year and we are meeting over 100 state and national standards in order to provide licensure.”
The program has four areas of emphasis: academic mastery, experiential learning, transformative teaching and authentic learning.
The program will explore methods of teaching and cultivate students’ individual interests, allowing them to fully understand why they want to teach and how they can reach students.
“What we really want to do,” said Mitchell, “is have a little incubator here for developing teacher leaders. [We’re looking for students] who are really going to come study intensely with the best people we can find, so that they will commit to being lifelong teachers and make that kind of difference.”
The program features a formal partnership with a local high school in Buncombe County, and a second partnership is currently being arranged. Behind the MAT program at Warren Wilson will be an advisory committee of 38 regional people involved in the education community.
Principals and administrators from grade schools and colleges in Buncombe County will support the MAT program in an effort to coordinate teaching with them here at Warren Wilson.
Three years ago Warren Wilson decided to discontinue the education department and instead expand it into a graduate program. Students and faculty felt that work crew responsibilities, liberal arts requirements of the college and state licensure requirements were too much for a four-year program.
The last class of Education majors at Warren Wilson will graduate in May, although a minor in Education is still offered to undergraduate students.