Creating a Dialogue on What Teaching Should Be | Teachers College Columbia University

Skip to content Skip to main navigation

Creating a Dialogue on What Teaching Should Be: TC’s Office of Teacher Education celebrates its 10-year anniversary


As TC’s Office of Teacher Education (OTE) marks its 10-year anniversary this week, there are many accomplishments to celebrate – but the most important one, in the view of its director, A. Lin Goodwin, is that people are talking.

“We’re convening an intellectual conversation among our faculty about teaching and about what’s really important in our programs,” says Goodwin, who serves as both Vice Dean of the College and Evenden Professor of Education.

The result has been initiatives such as TR@TC and TR@TC2, federally funded medical residency-style programs that prepare diverse, highly qualified teachers of English as a Second Language, Students with Disabilities, Science-Biology and General Science, and Science-Students with Disabilities; and also the College’s new doctoral specialization in Teacher Education – an emerging field that focuses specifically on the practical work of teaching teachers and research on a wide range of related issues.

“These are enormously innovative programs that have served as models for the rest of the country and worldwide, as well,” said TC President Susan Fuhrman in a toast at OTE’s anniversary gathering.

OTE has made major administrative improvements as well. Ten years ago, a predecessor office primarily collected and recorded student teaching hours for compliance with state requirements. Since, then the OTE team – Goodwin; Aimee Katembo, Director;  Julia Yu, Associate Director; and Faride Suarez, Associate Director For Certification Compliance – has brought several scattered functions together under one roof, including:

  • Certification, which was previously in the Office of the Registrar. OTE routinely holds certification workshops but will also make “house calls” to any professor or program to talk about certification for their students.
  • School-based support, which includes supporting cooperating teachers and other school-based staff.
  • Oversight of The Elliot and Roslyn Jaffe Peace Corps Fellows Program, which had previously been an independent entity at the College.
  • Support to faculty who must register or re-register programs according to New York State mandate – and more broadly, liaising with the New York City Department of Education and the New York State Education Department.

But to the OTE team, the more important focus has been to keep TC’s programs at the cutting edge of preparing teachers to serve an ever-more diverse pre-K—12 student population nationwide. That work, they feel strongly, cannot be top-down.

“We can’t tell anyone what to do – we can only suggest and facilitate,” Goodwin says. “But when we do it right, our discussions tend to reverberate, and the good ideas bubble up.”

The key venue for making that happen has been the Teacher Education Policy Committee (TEPC), an ad hoc group chaired by Goodwin that is open to all faculty, and that includes representation from all 27 of TC’s teacher education programs.

For example, TEPC discussions, which cover research, policy, practice and programs, was the genesis for creation of the teacher education doctoral specialization, and the committee now has a standing working group on the topic.

“We held a retreat in 2008, which was in itself a big accomplishment, because TEPC had been around for 20 to 30 years previously, and for a long time very few people came to the meetings,” Goodwin says. “And we began talking about, ‘what are the skills and experience that people really need to prepare others to teach?’” The College then used an invitation to participate in the Transformation Initiative launched by NCATE (the National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education) to further explore the same issue. A group of faculty who had come together through TEPC – Goodwin, Laura Smith, Mariana Souto-Manning, Ranita Cheruvu, Mei Ying Tan, Rebecca Reed and Lauren Taveras – subsequently published a study in the Fall 2014 issue of the Journal of Teacher Education, which found that preparation of teacher educators at the doctoral level in university settings has been largely informal and haphazard.  

“We’ve also published pieces in Education Week and commented on public policy,” Goodwin says. “We’ve become a voice in the national conversation.”

Important conversations are being encouraged at the grass roots level as well. For example, Associate Director Julia Yu has created professional development workshops for students, cooperating teachers and field supervisors; a “Group Talk” for student teaching coordinators, who used to work in isolation from each other; and appreciation ceremonies for cooperating teachers and long-term supervisors, some of whom have worked with TC for decades. Yu also started the Resources for Classrooms Program, which provides mini-grants to cooperating teachers and student teachers to fund science kits, books and other school supplies to generate excitement around a more dynamic use of materials as well as the Collaborative Initiatives Fund to encourage TC’s various teacher education programs to bring together their student teachers and cooperating teachers for additional professional development opportunities.  

For Goodwin, who initially had reservations about leading OTE, these results have been enormously gratifying.

“The key thing isn’t that I’ve been heading the office, but that I’m a faculty member and a teacher educator and not a bureaucratic functionary,” she says. “The fact that we now have a really vibrant dialogue going on across the College tells me that people care and that we’re doing something meaningful.” – Joe Levine

Published Thursday, Dec 17, 2015

TEAM OTE From left: Julia Yu; A. Lin Goodwin; Aimee Katembo; Faride Suarez.