Monday, October 12, 2015

Educating Future Educators

Preparing future educators is a huge responsibility, said Mani Sehgal, Director of Hawai‘i Pacific University’s School of Education.

“There will always be a need for good teachers,” said Sehgal. “The most enjoyable thing about preparing new educators, for me, is knowing that you are changing people’s lives for the better. Our future depends on new teachers.”

Last summer, he had a chance to help with setting standards for an important measurement for teaching candidates. In June, he served on the Educational Testing Service (ETS) Praxis Performance Assessment for Teachers (PPAT) standards setting panel, in Princeton, New Jersey. The PPAT is a performance-based, pre-licensure assessment of a teacher candidate’s readiness and ability to teach effectively.

“There were a handful of us selected from across America to serve on the panel and create cut-off scores for this new national assessment,” Sehgal said. “It was a great experience getting to meet other educators from all across the nation.”

The panel allowed him a “better understanding of this new assessment coming down the pipeline for our candidates. As this new educational reform is implemented over the next few years, it will become very high stakes for our future teachers.”

By being part of the panel, Sehgal said he can “better inform and educate our students and faculty so we know what is expected from us. It will have a direct impact on our students.”

For Sehgal, whatever can be done to prepare future educators is a top priority. “Our students always come first. Faculty continue to stay current on the latest trends of their discipline, but are first and foremost dedicated to our students.”

He also appreciates the community partnerships with Hawaii public and private schools, where education majors get to student teach. He credits Linda Wheeler, Ed.D., Field Director of Education, for its continued success.

“That’s an amazing resource we have. We believe it’s the most important thing we can provide our candidates, because it gives them firsthand knowledge of what it’s like to be in a classroom. That’s what they need.”

Hawaii’s diverse setting also benefits future teachers, as they encounter classrooms with children from different backgrounds. Sehgal said. “You’re exposed to so many different cultures … it’s a great melting pot for teachers to learn in.”

In fact, Sehgal, who is from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, said that mix of cultures is one of the reasons he chose to teach in Hawaii. “I really enjoyed the diversity of the student population. There is so much culture and richness in our student body.”

HPU’s student body also includes many military members, veterans and their families. Sehgal expects greater opportunities to serve that population because the School of Education now falls under the College of Extended and Interdisciplinary Education. The college also includes HPU’s well-regarded Military Campus Programs and Sehgal sees great synergy in the future.

“Our program has always had a strong military presence. Last year, 38 percent of our student candidates were affiliated with the military in one way or another,” he said. “In the near future, we are looking at expanding some of our courses on bases.”

“We also have a few programs in the works that we think will be appealing to students,” he said. One of them is an online, one year master’s programs for teachers who already teach.

Getting these new programs off the ground keeps Sehgal very busy, but he said he tries to find time to run, hike and enjoy the islands. Time to unwind is important. That’s one thing he hopes new teachers understand.

“Stress is part of the job. It’s easy to be consumed with work but it’s better for everyone and everything around you to make time to relax as well. As a teacher, your students will thank you.”

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