October 25, 2022
Central Maine News – for complete article
UMF hosted an open house highlighting its teacher education program to 150 prospective students.
BY BRIAN PONCEFRANKLIN JOURNAL
FARMINGTON — On Friday, Oct. 21, University of Maine Farmington hosted its first teacher education open house.
Unlike a traditional college open house, UMF specifically geared this open house towards prospective students interested in its teaching programs.
Director of Admissions Lisa Ellrich said this open house has been a long time coming. Originally planned for spring 2020, Ellrich said the COVID-19 outbreak sidelined it until now.
The day was tailored to the students’ interest as teachers, she said. According to Ellrich, students who are “true early childhood folks” would be taken to the nationally accredited Sweatt-Winter Child Care and Early Education Center, where they would also be able to catch a glimpse of the blueprints for the upcoming new Sweatt-Winter center. Other students toured the campus and partook in sessions featuring the current teaching staff.
The sessions aimed at different types of teaching, with the students divided into groups to tour the campus and visit each of these sessions. The sessions included topics such as “Playing with Personification” led by Dr. Kathryn Will and Dr. Deborah Overstreet and “Creative Arts and Education and Beyond” led by Dr. Mellisa Clawson.
Ellrich said the university wanted to help the students get a full scope of the programs that UMF offers. “One of the things we wanted to help address today was to show them some of the different opportunities at the different grade levels,” she said. Ellrich hopes the open house will assist the students in honing their area of interest.
Associate Dean for Graduate and Continuing Education Erin Connor said the event “exceeded our expectations. To have 150 young people want to come to Farmington on a Friday and talk about becoming teachers. Really, it boosts our morale.”
From this open house, Dr. Erin Connor hopes to send a batch of much-needed teachers into the Maine education system and beyond in the future. In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, Dr. Connor said the whole curriculum had to evolve with the times.
“I think COVID has taught us to be nimble and to know what our mission is and to act on it,” Dr. Connor said.
With COVID-19, UMF had to rethink its strategy for teacher education programs. According to Connor, UMF took a hard look and focused on the essentials when rebuilding them. “Let’s be thoughtful about what we add back in and maybe there are things that COVID taught us to let go of,” she stated.
When asked about specific examples, Dr. Connor pointed to how quickly new teachers enter the classroom. Getting students into the classroom as quickly as possible with mentors is the focus, so that students “start to think of themselves as teachers in a way that is supported by the university,” she said.
As the landscape of education shifts because of world events, Dr. Connor feels that teacher education programs in general need to pay close attention to the students, as “they themselves are coming out of COVID and they have developed some skills, but also have some deficits, so our playbooks have to change too,” she said.