The Value of GSEAP’s Fifth Year Program in Education

The Value of GSEAP’s Fifth Year Program in Education

Image of teacher and students

The Graduate School of Education and Allied Professions (GSEAP) offers a Fifth Year Accelerated Teacher Preparation Program with seven specialized tracks including elementary ed, special ed, and five secondary education subjects.

It’s a huge opportunity for students to complete their undergraduate degree, get a master’s, and earn their initial teacher certification in a single five-year package.

— Ryan Colwell, PhD, associate professor of Elementary Education and chair of Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation

Stefania Vendrella ’20, MEd’21 wanted to be a teacher ever since she was a shy fifth grader growing up in West Haven, Conn.

“It was my teacher who helped me gain the confidence I needed to come out of my shell. She encouraged my creativity and prompted me to share in class,” recalled Vendrella, who now describes herself as outgoing.

When it came time to choose a college, Vendrella chose Fairfield University for a number of reasons — its proximity to New York City and the beach among them. But the fifth year program in education, allowing students to earn both an undergraduate and a master’s degree in just five years, was the deciding factor.

“I knew I wanted to be certified in Connecticut, and I liked that the program allowed me to take so many graduate credits during my undergraduate years. It not only exposed me to teaching early on, it made the master’s workload more manageable,” says Vendrella, who is now doing a field placement at Greens Farms Academy in Westport where she will work as a fully certified teacher next year.

“Students at Fairfield get to choose undergraduate majors that align with their interests and passions, and that also help them proceed on their pathways to becoming teachers,” explained Ryan Colwell, PhD, associate professor of elementary education and chair of Educational Studies and Teacher Preparation. “Students major in areas such as psychology, history, sociology, English, biology, math, and physics, while simultaneously engaging in education coursework to become certified teachers.”

Through the Fifth Year Accelerated Teacher Preparation Program, Fairfield offers seven five-year program tracks in education: elementary ed, special ed, and an additional five secondary education subjects (science, math, English, social studies, and world languages). Those interested in a fifth-year education program pursue an undergraduate minor in either regular or special education, which serves as a launching pad towards the various five-year teacher preparation tracks.

“It’s a huge opportunity for students to complete their undergraduate degree, get a master’s, and earn their initial teacher certification in a single five-year package,” said Dr. Colwell. “Students coming directly into our grad ed programs after earning their bachelor’s degree at other institutions often require two years to earn all of the necessary credits for a master’s degree and initial teacher certification.”

Casey Gold ’21 is about to graduate with a major in math and will transition into the fifth year program in secondary education in September. She plans to get a paid teaching internship — an option many schools don’t offer — and attend classes at night.

 “A Jesuit curriculum focuses on the idea of having a well-rounded education, and that’s important to me. I want my students to understand how math relates to everyday life and to their other classes,” Gold said, adding that the cultural sensitivity component of her education has also been eye-opening. “For one project, I interviewed a Filipina girl from my high school, and recognized that her experiences as a young Asian woman were so different from my own. I learned that, in order to be an effective teacher, it’s so important to know a student’s background and to validate their experiences.”

“One of the big pluses of the program is that students are getting field experiences right away, and throughout their programs. As early as their 'Intro to Teaching' course, students are in community-engaged learning at Cesar Batalla (a GSEAP partnership school in Bridgeport),” said Dr. Colwell. “Comprehensive field experiences are provided in urban and suburban districts, and in public and private school settings.”

Alumnus Phil Strang ’17, MEd'18, teaches biology and ecophysiology at the Fairchild Wheeler Interdistrict Magnet School in Trumbull.

“A Jesuit education gives you a world view and emphasizes that you’re part of a global community,” he said. “Now that I’ve been teaching for several years in an urban school where many of my students are immigrants, I realize how beneficial my undergrad experience, including a mission trip to Jamaica and a teaching stint in Australia, has been for me as a teacher.”

A biology major, Strang didn’t apply to the fifth year program until his junior year. Now, with three years of teaching under his belt, he’ll enter the University of Texas at Austin this fall for a program in STEM education, with the goal of getting his doctorate and teaching at the college level.

“The fifth year program empowers students to earn their master’s in education and initial teacher certification through a rigorous but efficient plan of study, and it prepares students to head into the field as educational leaders, following the Jesuit mission of becoming men and women for others,” said Dr. Colwell.

Learn More about Fairfield University's Fifth Year Accelerated Teacher Preparation Program at fairfield.edu/cas.

Tags:  Top Stories,  GSEAP

Last modified: 05-14-21 9:26 AM

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