Interview with Connie Titone, Ed.D., professor and advisor in education department at Villanova University
Connie Titone, Ed.D., is a professor and advisor in the education and human services department at Villanova University in Villanova, Pennsylvania. She is not only the chair of the department, but also the founder of the Masters Plus Certification graduate program at the university. Titone created the program in 2003, and she sat down with GradSchools.com to talk about graduate education programs from an advisor's point of view.
GradSchools: How has the preparation of teachers evolved in recent years?
We are really moving to being much more inclusive—teaching teachers how to deal with children with special needs, and how to see special-needs students in the same light as others. We are also more focused on working with students with different language abilities.
GradSchools: How has the passage of No Child Left Behind greatly impacted your curriculum?
The field has had to change since No Child Left Behind (NCLB). We now have to put aside the intellectual part of teaching, and we must teach our students to teach their students to pass tests. Hopefully we will go back to preparing teachers to be thinkers and scholars, and to pass those positions onto their students.
GradSchools: What are your expectations of students in terms of background and commitment?
The master's program is for those who are already teachers and want to enhance their skills, while another program is for students with no background in education. I really expect that students will develop an understanding of the profession and already have the desire to be a teacher. I hope they see it as a long-term commitment to the world of education and working with young people. I hope that they value and honor the profession, whether they are classroom teachers or become educational leaders.
GradSchools: What would you like students to take away from the program?
Certainly they leave knowing how to teach, and they will keep learning to improve their practice over the life of their career. Students will learn how to work in the profession, how to engage and support students, and how to give them the desire to keep learning.
GradSchools: What degrees do you advise students to obtain? What goes into the decision between a master's and a doctorate?
It is important that all teachers should at least have a master's degree, because we have to keep learning and growing. We have students who come out as certified teachers at an undergraduate level who come back to study at the graduate level. If I see a graduate student really fired up by ideas, I encourage a doctorate if they are interested in writing and research and all sorts of ways to make contributions. If teachers are recommending learning to young people, they must keep doing it themselves.
GradSchools: What are the international contexts of education?
We want to communicate, especially as teachers. It is important that we value people who speak other languages and not dissuade students to speak their native language. In the 1900s with the first great immigration wave of Italians, we encouraged them not to speak Italian. We have a different mindset now we shouldn't insist they give up language, and education students must learn to deal with diversity in general. Anything a teacher can learn to help a student feel included and valued in the classroom is what we need to be doing.
GradSchools: How important is foreign language to the field?
It is extremely important. Some states have mandated that all elementary and middle school teachers must teach Spanish, but the funding wasn’t there. Teachers should be able to communicate even if it is no more than, Hello, how are you to students who don't speak English at home. We need to create an atmosphere in which the student feels valued, which translates into learning.
GradSchools: What are some less traditional/obvious career choices for students in the field?
There are all sorts of foundations focused on education, not just in a formal school setting. Some examples are think-tanks, afterschool, outdoor leadership and summer programs. There are lots of ways to get into the informal world of education.
GradSchools: How do you view the future of the study field?
High school has changed less over 100 years than elementary and middle schools, so we need more work there. We need high schools to be smaller so kids don’t feel lost, and to keep trying to humanize school for students. The urban school opportunities must be made equal to suburban school opportunities as well.
GradSchools: Would you say we are in need of curriculum change?
If we just give our students a chance and give them the opportunity to try out solutions, they come up with a lot of ideas. Education needs the invigoration of the entrepreneurial spirit of students. I have lots of faith in our students and their ability to use their creativity and brilliance to effect change.
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