Mastering Teaching and Learning
About the Photo:
"As an educator, you aren't just a teacher, facilitator or mentor.
You are also a learner in a dynamic situation, constantly assessing
all students and getting to know them in order to teach them
better." — Karen Baldacci
In a paradigm shift from the traditional model of placing and
supervising student teachers in K-12 schools, the College of
Education and Human Development's Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT)
program involves entire school communities in educating the next
generation of teachers.
Links Related to this
For more than 18 years, Karen Baldacci
has had a successful career as a registered dietician working in
clinical and public health settings. When her son Jack started school,
she also became an active volunteer, both in the classroom and as a
leader in the local Parent-Teacher Organization.
Baldacci's positive involvement in the local school rang true to her own
experiences as a student who benefited from inspirational educators.
That's when she knew it was time to go back to school, this time to
pursue a second career as a teacher.
"I was intrigued and thrilled with the whole concept of watching a child
grow through learning," says Baldacci, a resident of Bangor, Maine. "As
an educator, you aren't just a teacher, facilitator or mentor. You are
also a learner in a dynamic situation, constantly assessing all students
and getting to know them in order to teach them better."
Twelve months ago, Baldacci returned to her alma mater, The University
of Maine, as a graduate student in the new Master of Arts in Teaching
(MAT) program, offered by the College of Education and Human
Development. MAT, launched in 1997, is a high-caliber, intense
preparation for aspiring teachers, including those whose academic
coursework or careers are in areas other than education.
MAT is part of the college's Professional Development Network, which is
based on partnerships between UMaine and area schools committed to
improving teaching and learning at all levels. In particular, the
network is designed to prepare preservice teachers, provide professional
development for practicing educators, and emphasize exemplary practice
to maximize K-12 student achievement.
The model for teaching and working with interns and teachers on-site at
elementary schools is spearheaded by two of UMaine's leading education
professors, Brenda Power, the University's 1999 Distinguished Maine
Professor, and Constance Perry, recipient of UMaine's 2001 Outstanding
The goal is to help address the shortfall of well-qualified teachers in
Maine and across the nation. The success of the MAT program, considered
to be an initiative at the forefront of educational reform, contributed
to the College of Education and Human Development's recognition in the
U.S. News & World Report's 1998 Guide To America's Best Graduate
"It's an intense commitment. You have to be ready to unplug your life
for a year, refocus your energy and manage time as never before," says
Baldacci, whose life has long been hectic with her husband, John,
serving his fourth term as a Maine congressman in Washington, D.C.
But where else, she asks, can you end up with a master's degree and
certification in such a short time, and, most importantly, with the
confidence and ability to be the kind of teacher you aspire to be?
For MAT students, courses are offered at the University and on-site in
schools during the day and evening. In addition to coursework, there is
an intensive in-school experience. The UMaine interns spend 40 to 60
hours a week with their mentor teachers during the full-time internship
in the spring.
Baldacci received small-school experience at Newburgh Elementary in SAD
22, doing a first grade placement and taking a social studies methods
course taught on-site by UMaine faculty. Lessons she learned in the
methods course were immediately applied in the classroom with mentoring
teachers. In the city of Brewer, Baldacci interned in both the fifth and
This year, she became one of 93 new teachers to graduate from UMaine's
MAT program in the past four years.
The MAT program is in sync with the public school calendar rather than
the University's academic year. In June, even before the children return
to classes in the fall, UMaine students dive into educational
psychology, foundations, research and assessment courses in preparation
for their school-based experiences.
"The MAT students are in the classroom from day one. They watch our
summer assessment with the students, plan and assess activities, attend
meetings and workshops, help with classroom inquiry and data analysis,
and conduct their own research," says Laurie Richards, Baldacci's mentor
teacher from Brewer's Pendleton Street School. "They accomplish a
tremendous amount of work in one year because they really want to be
here and this commitment is reflected in the classroom."
The MAT program is good for the children and for the teaching
profession, according to Richards. "The program allows for two teachers
in the classroom, which means more one-on-one time for each child with a
teacher. The interns also bring experience from other jobs, as well as
fresh ideas and the latest in research from their classes," she says.
As part of the MAT program, on-site learning labs in the schools
encourage sharing of strategy and expertise. Mentor teachers host
colleagues and interns to their classrooms to observe instruction. A
subsequent debriefing session focuses on theories linked to what
happened during the lesson, and connections to other classrooms,
curricular projects and needs of individual children.
"It's like an apprenticeship program where you can see different master
teachers approach the same lesson in different ways, which is wonderful
for all the learners," Baldacci says.
by Kay Hyatt
for more stories from this issue of UMaine Today Magazine.