Rice’s Teacher Education program celebrates 50th anniversary

Rice University’s pioneering Teacher Education program, part of the university’s Susanne M. Glasscock School of Continuing Studies, will celebrate its 50th anniversary this fall with two special events highlighting educational equity in Texas schools.

Founded in 1964, the Teacher Education program was established on the tenets of creating content experts who are adept at writing and delivering innovative curriculum. Today, Teacher Education provides professional education courses that include extensive study of critical issues in education and effective teaching for diverse learners, according to Jennifer Gigliotti-Labay, associate dean of the Glasscock School and executive director of the school’s Center for College Readiness.

“The Rice Teacher Education program is one of the earliest examples of Rice University engaging with the Houston K-12 education community,” Gigliotti-Labay said. “Throughout its 50-year history, the program has provided teacher preparation for hundreds of secondary teachers, student-enrichment opportunities and a Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) for new teachers.”

The special events planned for Sept. 3-4 coincide with the beginning of the state’s K-12 school year.

On Sept. 3, Angela Valenzuela, a professor in the Educational Policy and Planning Program at the University of Texas at Austin, will give a public keynote address on “Educational Equity, Politics and Policy in Texas.” She also serves as director of the University of Texas Center for Education Policy and is the new director of the National Latino Education Research Agenda Project that aims to create a national teacher education pipeline for Latino youth. Valenzuela’s talk will be at 7 p.m. in the Anderson-Clarke Center’s Hudspeth Auditorium. Public registration for this event is free; however, an RSVP is required at teach.rice.edu/50years.

On Sept. 4, a panel will explore the topic “Educating for Equity in Texas Schools.” This discussion is open to invited guests only; panelists will include Alex Byrd, associate professor of history at Rice; Neal Lane, senior fellow in science and technology policy at Rice’s Baker Institute for Public Policy and former director of the National Science Foundation; Linda McNeil, director of Rice’s Center for Education; alumna Juliet Stipeche ’96, president of the Houston Independent School District Board of Education and associate director of Rice’s Center for Excellence and Equity; and Valenzuela. Judy Radigan, director of Rice’s Teacher Education program, will serve as moderator.

The impact of Rice-educated teachers is seen throughout the greater community. Grace Magnani was one of four MAT program students who, in their final semester of the program this year, were recognized as outstanding “rookie” teachers by the Houston-area public schools where they were interns in their first year of teaching.

An English teacher in Fort Bend Independent School District, Magnani said her interest in social justice combined with her passion for reading and writing inspired her to become a teacher. She particularly enjoys having her students take control over their own learning. “My favorite days are when the kids, armed with questions, conduct their own Socratic seminars,” Magnani said. “Witnessing my students critically engaging with the world around them, genuinely listening to their perspectives on pressing issues and watching them question their classmates’ – and sometimes their own – beliefs can be quite mind-blowing.”

As the Teacher Education program looks toward its next 50 years, Gigliotti-Labay said the staff is excited about a new MAT track for experienced teachers and a new professional development offering, the 21st-Century Learning Series. The series will provide an opportunity for the Houston education community to discuss new teaching and learning practices and theories in a forum dedicated to increasing student learning, engagement and achievement. “The fine work that this department does with area secondary teachers is to be commended,” Gigliotti-Labay said.

About Jeff Falk

Jeff Falk is director of national media relations in Rice University's Office of Public Affairs.