Teachers access the largest unreached people group in the world, said Margo Turner, professor of education at John Brown University.
“There are 80 million kids in the public schools in the U.S.,” Turner said. “For some, their only positive role model is their teacher. For 180 days a year, seven hours a day, teachers have the chance to impact kids.”
To help prepare Christian teachers to fulfill the Great Commission in this mission field, as Turner described it, the college of education now offers a graduate program at the University.
Gloria Gale, associate dean of the College of Education, hoped for a graduate program of education since 2003 when the graduate counseling programs were just beginning to take off.
“Our grad students and alumni have for years encouraged us to start an education program,” said Gale.
For various reasons, including market readiness and student interest, the University did not start work on the program until 2010.
The program began last semester, and offers three concentrations. Graduate students can get their Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction with a focus in teaching English to speakers of other languages, Teacher as Leader or initial licensure.
Each focus offers a unique benefit. The English program grants an English as a second language endorsement for new teachers. Gale said this is in high demand in the current job market.
The teacher as leader focus gives students the training to assist other teachers and school administrators in new education and curriculum techniques.
This focus is for teachers who “don’t want to leave the classroom, but are ready for and have the capacity for more responsibility,” Gale said.
Initial licensure gives teaching certification to students who did not graduate with an education-related bachelor’s degree.
“They learn a lot of the same things as [education] majors, but in a graduate setting,” said Gale. “This is an opportunity for people … to go deeper into what God wants them to do.”
“There’s no greater mission field than the public school, the mission school or the places like Uganda where there is no school,” she said. “There’s no greater mission field than the mind of a child.”
Turner teaches one of the two classes offered to students this semester, Human Intellect and the Brain. While she covers the science of learning, Gale covers the spiritual aspect in her class, Christian Foundations in Instructional Facilitation.
She and Turner are glad to teach the eight students in the program, but Gale is most excited about what students can do for local schools.
“Part of having a master’s program is entering into the realm of educational research,” Gale said.
Research projects are required for graduation, so each student will be working with a local school.
“The idea is to leave a gift with the school … so that what they do is valuable,” said Gale.
Earlier this month, the program held a lunch on campus to provide information to current undergraduate students who may be interested in pursuing their masters. A handful of students attended, including junior Laticia Warren.
Warren is an English education major, but said she wanted more information about the University’s graduate program as she considers if and when to get a graduate degree.
“Undergraduates at JBU might want to think about the JBU grad program for education because it gives them an opportunity to focus on their content area as an undergrad and then go back as a grad student to get licensed to teach, if they’ve decided they want to do that,” she added.
Cliff Murphy, graduate education representative, encouraged students to consider pursuing graduate school.
The program schedule is set up for people already working as teachers, he said. Applying is also simple for students who receive their undergraduate degree at the University because much of the required information is already in the system.
Both Gale and Turner hope that undergraduates from the University will go on to join the program in the coming semesters.
“Children are not just pots to fill and send off,” Gale said. “You can ignite a fire inside of them.”
“We invite students who are serious about living God’s mission,” said Turner. “The world needs better teachers.”