High Honors for Fairfield’s Secondary Education in English Program

High Honors for Fairfield’s Secondary Education in English Program

The Graduate School of Education and Allied Profession’s (GSEAP) Secondary Education in English program — for those who wish to teach English at the middle or high school level — has long been recognized by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE).

NCTE recognition is a seal of approval, meaning that we’ve hit a national set of standards for the preparation of English teachers.

— Professor of Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation Emily Smith, PhD

If not for a fortuitous talk with Emily Smith, PhD, professor of educational studies and teacher preparation, Harmony Key might still be working two jobs, putting a temporary halt on her master’s program in GSEAP’s Secondary Education in English program.

In a typical week, Key worked a night job and squeezed a few hours into a second job between classes in order to pay tuition. When the bills got to be too much, she planned to take a semester off and start saving again. That’s when Dr. Smith told her about the DSAP (Durational Shortage Area Permit) program, which allows aspiring teachers who are not yet certified to teach for a year – with a salary – in hard-to-fill positions. Key found a job teaching eighth grade in Bridgeport’s James J. Curiale School, and couldn’t be happier. Best of all, she’s on track to finish her master’s without interruption.

She’s learned something about herself, too. “I always thought I wanted to teach high school, but I found I love this age group,” she says. “They’re so smart and much more mature than I thought they would be.”

One of the first icebreakers Key used was an exercise that encourages respect and listening to one another. She learned it in a class taught by Bryan Ripley Crandall, PhD, associate professor of educational studies and teacher preparation. “I tell the kids I have high expectations for them. I respect them, and expect them to respect me,” she said.

GSEAP’s Secondary Education in English program — for those who want to teach English at the middle or high school level — has long been recognized by the National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE). Gaining that recognition required a rigorous self-assessment and includes review by colleagues across the country to ensure that students are learning best practices in education.

“NCTE recognition is a seal of approval, meaning that we’ve hit a national set of standards for the preparation of English teachers,” said Dr. Smith, who spearheaded the accreditation. “It’s a great feeling to know that after all our hard work we were acknowledged.”

Excellent Students Become Excellent Teachers

The Secondary Education in English program works closely with Fairfield’s undergraduate program in English, ensuring that English majors who want to enter the master’s program are well prepared.

“Besides a solid preparation in English, there’s an extensive core requirement” explained Professor of English Betsy Bowen, PhD. “Our department’s collaboration with GSEAP allows us to align ourselves with the needs and expectations of the master’s program.”

“Because of the accreditation and the standards we’ve set, we get very strong candidates entering the program, and that’s one reason we graduate such strong teachers,” said Dr. Smith.

Entering the Secondary Education in English program after graduating college was “seamless, and I appreciated that I could do the accelerated program and finish up in a year,” said Alisha Vittorio ’14, MA’16, now teaching at Fairfield Warde High School. What most stands out to her was the personal connection she felt — and still feels — with her professors. “I keep in touch with several of them, and I don’t know that my peers from other schools can say the same about their college professors. They got to know us, understood the kind of placements we wanted, and facilitated those placements through the bonds they had created with Fairfield alumni who were working in the field.”

Not all students in the program are fresh out of college. Joanna Warren MA’20 had a background as a bank trainer and policy writer, and then took time off to raise her children. When it was time to get back into the workforce, she did what she’d always dreamed of doing: she became a teacher.

“I think the beauty of the program is that the professors prepare you with a lot of real world experience,” said Warren, a first-year teacher in Bridgeport’s Warren Harding High School. “These professors have lived the life you’re going into, they talk about what worked and what didn’t in their classes, and they’ve built a resiliency. I don’t know how I could have started teaching in a pandemic year without that resiliency.”

The Jesuit mission of striving to create a better world is an underpinning that makes the program unique, added Dr. Ripley Crandall. “That mission literally shapes all the conversations we have in our classes.” 

To learn more about the nationally accredited Master of Arts in Secondary Education program of GSEAP's Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation Department at Fairfield University, visit fairfield.edu/gseap.

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Last modified: 04-01-21 9:43 AM

20210401

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