Music education majors speak a universal language

How often do you hear from a Texas Wesleyan music education major? Probably not that often.

That is because, according to Janna McKinley, the Department of Music’s music coordinator, there are only 57 music majors, and only 38 of them are studying music education.

Several music education majors said there is a lot that they wish others knew about their field of study.

“It’s so much more than just being in an ensemble,” said Drenda Burk, a senior and music education major. “There is so much more than goes into it. In our degree plan, we cannot even take a GEC course until we are sophomores, or going into our junior year because we have so many required music classes that we have to have.”

Burk said that after you add in the education side on top of the music requirements, you are basically getting two degrees in one.

Senior and music education major Emily Messenger said that music education majors always take at least 18 hours a semester, with ensemble being a zero credit course.

Messenger said that she was bullied a lot in high school, but music was that one thing that gave her confidence.

“It gave me a way to express my feelings, and I was pretty good at what I was doing,” Messenger said. “My senior year of high school I joined every single choir we had — whether I was supposed to be in it or not — and was basically able to be a TA [teaching assistant] in beginning choir, so that’s when I got to see the education side of things.”

Burk said that the music education major at Wesleyan has provided her with a variety of opportunities to succeed outside of her particular interests.

“You don’t really get that in a bigger school, and here — being in such a small department — we have the unique opportunity to be in several different groups,” Burk said. “I had never sung before in my life before college, and I got to be in the choir, which in turn helped me in all other aspects of music.”

Messenger and Burk said that music education majors sometimes struggle to fit into the education department, as well as differentiate the content between music and education courses.

“We have to be able to put content in their terms,” Burk said. “Dr. (Kary) Johnson does a phenomenal job incorporating music, and has been very accommodating to us, which is not necessarily always the case.”

Johnson, an adjunct professor of education, wrote in an email that she finds her music education students to be a delight. They are creative and have taught her so many aspects of reading and literacy that can be taught through music.

“I want my students to be able to integrate what they are learning in my class with their own practice in the real world, so my courses and assignments allow flexibility for students to make learning their own,” Johnson wrote. “ Reading is in everything. So is music. Personally, I am so grateful for music educators.”

Messenger and Burk love that through obtaining their music education degree, they can speak a universal language.

“You can communicate the same feelings or emotions through music whether you speak the same language or not,” Burk said. “I love that fact. The reality that I can touch somebody who I wouldn’t normally be able to touch and that apply to education. To touch and inspire students, it’s a feeling unlike anything else.”

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Wesleyan faculty member joins Association of Teacher Educators board

While working on her doctoral degree at the University of North Texas in 2009, Dr. Elizabeth Ward was invited by her mentor to the Association of Teacher Educators conference.

“I really found it to be a home for me,” said Ward of the conference. “It just made sense professionally, and tapped into a lot of my interests. I see it to be an umbrella organization for everyone who is in the field of preparing teachers.”

Eight years later, Ward is not only an associate professor of education at Texas Wesleyan University, but also an ATE College-University Representative board member.

Ward said ATE has taken the lead for promoting advocacy, equity, leadership, and professionalism for teacher educators in all settings, and supports quality for all learners at all levels.

After being elected as a board member last spring, Ward officially took office at the annual conference in February, and will serve until February 2020.

“We are an all-volunteer organization, so in committing to be a board member I commit to attend the two annual conferences, plus two additional board meetings with or without support of the university,” Ward said. “Now, I am very lucky in that our dean, Dr. (Carlos) Martinez really believes in and encourages us to serve at the state national level, so he is assisting me to make sure I have the funds to do these kinds of things.”

Martinez said Ward is providing a voice to small, private institutions at ATE.

“(She) will be able to give a clear sense of what it take to license teachers in small private institutions around the country,” Martinez said. “Professional organizations are vital for the development of policy and practice. They play a critical role in establishing the standards by which teachers are licensed.”

Ward believes that this robust organization is taking a lead in statements on what teaching should look like, and what quality teacher preparation is and is not.

“We as educators in various organizations need to stand up and say, ‘No, we are the experts, we are the ones who are trained in this, we do research in this, and are in the field day in and day out,’ so we are really making an effort to have our collective voices be heard, and to really make a difference,” Ward said.

Ward said an element that makes ATE distinct from the rest is their “give back” program, where everyone attending the conference donates money, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to a local school that is chosen as a gift to the community.

“We believe in putting our money where our mouth is, so the requirements for the chosen school is that it must be a high needs school, it has to be engaged in innovative practices, and really doing things that are research based strategies that we know are going to improve education,” Ward said.

Ward said the check is usually much more than the schools ever expect, and that at the last conferences they gifted a local school more than $3,000.

Dr. Twyla Miranda, a Wesleyan professor for the school of education, is also a member of ATE and frequently gives presentations on teacher preparation at the national conference.

“We are very proud of Dr. Ward’s astute abilities and actions in promoting ethical behaviors in preparation of teachers,” Miranda wrote in an email. “She is a strong believer that it is the highest calling to teach, and to prepare people to teach.”

Ward said she has found a neat personal synergy by being involved in a national organization that believes what she believes, while working at a university that supports that as well.

“I am a passionate defender of public education; it is one of the greatest things that we offer in this country,” she said. “The one thing you can never take away from a human being is their education, and I love teaching at Wesleyan because we are a school that gives the opportunity for people who may not be able to afford a private education, and we provide a small nurturing place for them to thrive.

“I just feel like a super lucky person to work here.”

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BESO hosts guest speaker from Austin

The Bilingual Education Student Organization hosted several guest speakers that provided information about teaching resources and networking opportunities on Thursday.

The speakers at Dan Waggoner Hall included Jan L. Miller, director of Law Related Education for the State Bar of Texas, and Elizabeth De La Garza, TxDOT Grant Administrator for the Texas Municipal Courts Education Center.

Miller and De La Garza shared classroom insight, handed out a plethora of teaching tools and resources, while providing info about networking after driving up from Austin.

Miller said she and De La Garza frequently travel all over Texas speaking, teaching, and providing resources and networking opportunities for college students studying education.

“Whatever resources we can give to help them, ‘cause God bless them, I remember my first year teaching, it was horrible! ” Miller said.

De La Garza, who taught education for 32 years, discussed two key elements every new teacher needs.

“Every new teacher needs, a, a good mentor; and, b, the resources to lean on to be able to do the job right,” De La Garza said.

The two women provided exercise activities for students to participate in throughout their presentation.

“We don’t usually have stuff like this, and these were just amazing activities and resources,” said Guadalupe Sanchez, junior EC-6 bilingual major. “It’s really hard to find a way to teach social studies, and I feel like these tools make it a lot easier.”

Liseth Samano, junior EC-6 bilingual major said this was her third BESO meeting.

“This was awesome, so much useful information and resources,” Samano said. “I really loved the A-Z book activity that we did because I feel like going through school a lot of the events that happened in history feel like fragments, and this book just brought it all together in a story that makes sense.”

The goal of these resources is to refine what educators call TEKS, which stands for Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, De La Garza said.

“It is the framework for which we are supposed to have the kids competent in before they leave our classrooms,” she said.

Esther Garza, associate professor for the School of Education, said, “We teach content methodology for our teachers, and our collaboration is to provide and enhance that content methodology instruction through the use of these different resources.”

BESO President Dulce Munoz said she enjoyed seeing how real-life situations can be integrated into classroom teaching methods.

“It shocked me how the everyday activities that we do can be utilized as an example to teach social studies in the classroom, all while still covering social study TEKS!” she said.

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The school of education hosts lunch n’ learn event

The 5th.-Year M.Ed. Spring 2017 Lunch n’ Learn was held Tuesday in Dan Waggoner Hall.

Junior and senior students signed in, grabbed pizza, chatted among themselves and were heckled by Dr. Carlos Martinez, the dean of the School of Education, who popped in before the event got started.

Amy Orcutt, interim director of Graduate Admissions, gave a presentation discussing the benefits of the program, which she said is designed for “highly qualified senior students.”

The benefits of the program, Orcutt said, are that it is shorter than many master’s degree programs; students can finish it at a cheaper cost by using some of their undergraduate financial aid, and they get to stay with their Wesleyan family that they have been with for the last two to four years.

Orcutt said the program can also lead students to additional specializations, certifications, and job opportunities.

“It is designed to build your teacher toolbox,” Orcutt said. “And you get to be heckled by Dr. Martinez for an additional year, and who doesn’t want that?”

Junior liberal studies major Alyssa Kilgore said she was excited to see her future potentially mapped out with the fifth-year program option.

“All I have to do is just go for it!” she said.

The master’s program offers three different concentrations: gifted and talented; reading and writing; and second language education and culture, Orcutt said. The cost is $654 per credit hour, making it the most cost-effective master’s program Wesleyan has to offer.

“From the beginning of my education I had always thought about getting my master’s, and at Triple E Week we learned about the fifth-year program,” said Mary Olmos, a senior math major with an education cluster.  “I didn’t know about it, and when I learned that I could get my Masters a year after my bachelor’s I was like – heck yeah! I need to do that.”

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Education students, faculty divided on DeVos confirmation

After weeks of high tension between Republicans and Democrats, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as the new Education Secretary earlier this month.

DeVos’ controversial appointment has produced divided opinion among Texas Wesleyan University’s School of Education faculty and students. While some are skeptical about her qualifications and how well she will perform, others believe her influence will be limited.

Dr. Joe Dryden, associate professor of education, wrote in an email that DeVos, who is a major proponent of vouchers, will not have as much of an impact on graduating education students as “the fear mongering would suggest, for several reasons.”

Dryden wrote that DeVos’ influence will be a “relatively small blip on the radar. Large organizational bureaucracies have protective buffers and the alligators in the swamp will not go quietly; they will resist at all cost.”

Dr. Twyla Miranda, director of the Ed.D. program, wrote in an email that while DeVos may bring some good new ideas to the table, she will be watching her work and agenda closely.

“She has much to learn about education laws and public schools,” Miranda wrote. “I think most people were against her appointment due to her interest and lack of qualifications. Her appointment seemed to be a prize for her wealthy donations rather than a choice for a dedicated, knowledgeable educator.”

Texas State Teachers Association President Ariel Deen, an EC-6 education student, declined to comment on the issue, but TSTA Vice President Ashley Reynolds believes that anyone in a high position in education, including school administrators, should have had public teaching experience, and is concerned with DeVos’ lack thereof.

“I believe that her stance could potentially affect teachers, especially first-year teachers in the education field,” Reynolds wrote in an email. “I am worried that the field could become very competitive, and so much of a hassle that we could lose good teachers for our students.”

Senior education major Nicole Gillihan, who is currently completing her clinical teaching hours at Southwest Christian School, agreed with Reynolds’ concerns. DeVos, she said, has no education background.

“None. Period,” Gillihan said. “That’s a problem, and a pretty basic, well-understood concern.”

Gillihan expects to work in the public school system once she graduates this spring. However, while she has not spent much time contemplating how DeVos’ confirmation might impact her, she said that public school teachers are “very unhappy with this.”

School of Education Dean Dr. Carlos Martinez is taking a more neutral approach to DeVos’ confirmation.

“We have gone through a lot in education in Texas, especially as it related to funding,” Martinez said. “Our students may be entering a more difficult market, but if that happens, it will take a number of years to unfold. The only thing I know for sure is that there are cycles, and in my 25 years here I have seen very many of them, and there are ups and downs.

“Some years are really difficult, and others not so much, but as long as education is tied to politics, we are going to be in the middle of it all. It would be great to be in chemistry, but that is what we do for a living. We just help our students get to where they need to be.”

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TSTA-SP conference provides networking opportunities for students

Rachel Nall, a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies with a special education concentration at Texas State University, got up at 4 a.m. Saturday to drive to Texas Wesleyan.

Her destination was the Texas State Teachers Association Student Program District 4 Professional Development Conference, a day’s worth of lectures and networking for education students.

The event, held in Lou’s Place, was a chance for students to refine their teaching knowledge and skills, and Nall said she was there to explore networking opportunities before graduating from school.

“It will be great to show potential employers the kind of hours like this that you need to have for your own professional development, and I’m willing to make that effort,” Nall said.

Swymeala Lampkins, M.Ed. and assistant principal at D. McRae Elementary, stressed in her presentation the importance empowering students regardless of the circumstance.

“We have got to make sure we invest in our children. They are our future,” Lampkins said. “Remember, your first important duty is to build. We have to be builders.”

Crystal Webb, senior liberal studies EC-6 major, and TSTA-SP District 4 president, coordinated the event, now in its fourth year, and was excited to have the various speakers come and present their experiences in professional development.

“One of my passions about TSTA-SP is that they have your back legally, and it’s a positive association,” Webb said. “It advocates for teachers, which is needed. We don’t really hear positive feedback in the media, and we need that.”

Webb feels that because TSTA-SP  helps her, she will in turn be able to help others. She believes that holding these conferences with speakers that have the background and knowledge to help students with their careers will enhance the quality of their future students’ education.

“I am all about positive,” Webb said. “Anything that can help us be positive educators, and have great impact on students and children, because they need it.”

Irene Rodriguez is currently pursuing an associate of arts in teaching from Tarrant County College, and was thrilled to attend the event to learn and network. She discovered the event though one of her TCC professors, Dr. Shereah Taylor, who gave a presentation that afternoon.

“I just wanted to hear what this was all about,” Rodriguez said. “This is my first time attending a conference, so I’m a little excited! I’m hoping that in the future I can attend more conferences like this as well.”

Jonathan Kigigha,  a Wesleyan student majoring in business administration, came across a flyer for the event by luck, but wanted to attend the event to see what it was all about.

“I realize the influence that teachers had on my life, and my direction pursuing my degree,” Kigigha said. “I just wanted to attend the conference to stay in the loop with what is going on in the public education sector. I’m just here to gain wisdom, that’s all.”

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Triple E week in full swing

Texas Wesleyan students seeking to become certified teachers will be  spending this week attending workshops geared toward equipping them for certification exams.

Triple E Week began Monday with a welcome and orientation seminar at Lou’s Place designed to help students organize their thoughts and objectives for the week. “Triple E” stands for Educators’ Exam Extravaganza.

School of Education students will have no regular classes through Thursday, according to the Triple E Week schedule e-mailed to all education students.

“We are going to provide you with everything we possibly can to help you pass these tests,” said Dr. Elizabeth Ward, associate professor of education, at Monday’s orientation. “We are not just creating great teachers, we are creating great student leaders.”

This week’s workshops are geared specifically toward preparing students to take the Pedagogy and Professional Responsibilities (PPR) and content certification exams.

“I don’t actually take the exams until next year, but I feel very prepared for the PPR. I still have a long way to go for my content exam!” said junior and Spanish major Debra Barrick.

The ESL (English as a second language) and bilingual workshops will be of the most interest to Barrick, who will be taking the Spanish content exam.

“They give you a lot of other resources that will help, such as taking practice tests online, but it’s still a lot,” Barrick said. “Hopefully between these lectures and online tests it will be enough.”

Junior education major Meghan Gaskamp said the week is a great resource to prepare students for the upcoming exams.

“How they summarize everything for you makes it a little less scary,” Gaskamp said. “There really aren’t any downsides to it.”

Several students noted how informational the week had been in past semesters, and said they were excited for what this week has in store.

“I really like it,” said junior education major Shanika Cliff. “It tells you what you need to know on the state core exam.”

Cliff, who participated in the event in a previous semester, particularly enjoyed the physical education lessons.

“Last semester the PE seminar was really fun,” Cliff said. “You gotta get up and jump! She actually taught you the moves, rather than just having to sit and listen to lecture the whole time.”

Cliff said that while most students are always hungry during the long workshop days, they were not on Monday because the welcome and overview session included pizza for all students.

Dulce Benitez, a senior enrolled in the five-year master’s program majoring in Spanish with education as a secondary certification, had participated in the event before, and had a great experience.

“When we do questions as a group, and the teacher goes over everything and explains the why” was the most helpful part of the seminars, she said.

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