LPS teachers help pilot TLTE Practice Fellows program

Eckerson and Staples-Farmer named Practice Fellows.
L-R, Janet Eckerson and Sarah Staples-Farmer have been named Practice Fellows in the Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education.

LPS teachers help pilot TLTE Practice Fellows program

11 Jan 2018    

New classes were not the only thing that started up this week at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The Department of Teaching, Learning and Teacher Education (TLTE) began piloting its new Practice Fellows program. The idea of practice fellows is to find excellent K-12 educators with advanced credentials who bring their practice expertise to campus. The initial fellows are Lincoln Public Schools (LPS) educators Janet Eckerson (Lincoln High School) and Sarah Staples-Farmer (Lincoln East High School), who will continue to be K-12 teachers as they also serve the university.

According to TLTE professor Ted Hamann, who helped design the Practice Fellows program, engaging practicing K-12 teachers with students preparing to teach is a key virtue. “Research universities like Nebraska want good researchers on their faculty, and both Janet and Sarah are good researchers, but, for a teacher education program, we also want our students, who are current and future teachers, to learn from those who are serving now in schools, who are high-level practitioners,” said Hamann. “Moreover, we don’t want these practitioners to just be adjuncts who come and go from the department with little interaction with the rest of us. We want the experience to be something that is helpful to the fellow, that helps them continue to develop professionally and to bring something more back to their regular job.”

The intent is for fellows to serve one to three years, to teach two TLTE classes a year, and to have their engagement be a resource for their main job as public school teachers.

 “There are a lot of ways we could use Fellows,” noted TLTE Department Chair Larry Scharmann. “We could offer special classes that build on the specific expertise of fellows, like Sarah’s expertise on schooling and adjudicated youth or Janet’s expertise with teaching heritage learners—students who know a language from home or family but have never studied it at school. We could also have them bring fresh, authentic, current perspectives to some of our courses. Wouldn’t it be great to have an elementary teacher who is expert at using technology in her classroom in developmentally appropriate ways share that expertise and resulting student reactions with some of our preservice teachers?”

Ali Moeller, TLTE’s Edith S. Greer Distinguished Professor explains that Eckerson’s role in the spring semester will be to share her experience and expertise with online graduate students who are currently K-12 educators.

“We are very excited to welcome Dr. Eckerson to the GOLDEN (Global on Line Distance Education Network) team,” said Moeller. “GOLDEN is an award winning online master’s degree program that allows language educators across the U.S. to pursue professional learning while full time educators. Janet is an outstanding full-time Spanish educator in Lincoln Public Schools. She will serve as our first practice fellow, a doctorate credentialed practitioner who brings with her the rich experience of K-12, as she teaches ‘Reading and Listening in the Spanish Classroom,’ a graduate course that allows K-12 Spanish language educators to experience first-hand, research-informed teaching practices that they can immediately integrate into their language classroom.”

Staples-Farmer, who has taught at Norris High School, Lincoln East, and at local private and community colleges, will lead an English language arts methods class for preservice teachers at Nebraska.

“She is an experienced teacher and English educator whose foci include writing instruction, literature, and dual-credit education,” said TLTE professor Loukia Sarroub. “Her leadership in bridging students’ high school and college lives is unique and offers some interesting leadership opportunities for better understanding the literacy practices of youth, as they make the transition from high school to post-secondary institutions.”

With an eye on fine-tuning and trouble-shooting the new role, both Eckerson and Staples-Farmer were invited to help pilot the new Practice Fellow role, but in the future the goal is to have an open and competitive solicitation for two or three new fellows each year who would have three-year terms that begin in January. Fellows would teach two courses a year, interact with TLTE faculty, and receive a $1,500 professional development stipend, in addition to compensation for their teaching. When the program is fully operating, there would be six to eight fellows at a time, some starting, some in the middle, and some at the end of their terms.

“We don’t want to pull excellent teachers out of the classroom where they are needed,” said Scharmann, “but we want the wisdom of these expert teachers to be an asset for our programs. As the Fellows help us, we help them hone their skills and, we hope, bring recognition to their home schools and districts.”

College of Education and Human Sciences
Teaching, Learning & Teacher Education