Cal Lutheran takes leading role in teachers’ on-the-job training
University-school partnerships win national award, as program director heads up revision of standards
In their first real taste of the job, K-12 teacher candidates train under experienced professionals. But at Cal Lutheran, the student-teaching experience isn’t like all the others. This year, the university is a recipient of the Exemplary Achievement Award from the National Association for Professional Development Schools.
Alone in its region and possibly the whole state, Cal Lutheran’s Graduate School of Education offers candidates a yearlong residency alongside a cohort of peers all working toward teaching credentials. They join forces with veteran teachers at local partner schools. During the scholastic year, which runs longer than the graduate school’s calendar, university faculty members also go to the partner schools so that teacher candidates can take their methods courses in the same environment.
After 15 years of experimentation, Cal Lutheran’s professional development school (PDS) program is well-oiled. Cooperating teachers get a say in who joins their classrooms for a year, rather than simply accepting placements made by administrators. A teacher liaison at each of the university’s five partner schools in Ventura County handles issues as they arise, working directly with education professor Michael Cosenza, the director of PDS partnerships. Cosenza even has a budget for substitutes to free up liaisons for meetings.
“It took years to get to this point,” said Cosenza, who wrote his Cal Lutheran doctoral dissertation on the impact of university-school partnerships on teacher mentors. “We’re at a really good place right now.”
The university and its partner schools were one of four such networks recognized in 2021 with the NAPDS award. The association also published the second edition of its PDS standards in 2021, with Cosenza chairing the eight-member committee of nationwide experts that drafted it.
Kevin Habroun, an Advanced Placement world history teacher at Royal High in Simi Valley, is a graduate of the same school, where he was inspired to pursue his career by three history teachers who made the subject fun. He came back to student-teach in 2018-2019, the year that Royal joined Cal Lutheran’s PDS network.
Now a member of the PDS partnership’s advisory board, Habroun keeps an eye on teacher candidates who come to his school. He observes that they assimilate exceptionally well.
“A lot of student teachers become coaches or get involved with clubs,” he said. “That’s because of the PDS. That’s because they get to stay the whole year, versus, ‘I’m here for six months. I’m not going to get involved with something like that.’ It does help build community.”
Student teachers answer to a variety of “bosses” including the cooperating teacher, their professors and a supervisor who observes them in the classroom and provides feedback. All the while, they are working to complete a state-mandated teaching performance assessment, one of the main hurdles to entering the profession.
When it came time for Habroun to videotape himself teaching for the assessment, he had confidence that things would be all right in part because of his yearlong experience with one group of students.
“The PDS builds trust,” he said. “Trust is huge. The kids have to trust that you know what you’re talking about. They have to trust you for things happening in their life. At the PDS, I built that trust over a full year.”
Learn more about the Professional Development Schools at CalLutheran.edu/pds.