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Secondary Ed Program Director: 'Teaching Is About Caring for Students First'

Susan Alford is the Director of the Secondary Teacher Education Program at Bellevue University. The program recently received formal approval of its Secondary Teacher Education Program endorsement programs from the Nebraska State Board of Education. 

I know the teacher education program at Bellevue University is just a few years old, but that you're not new to education. Can you tell me your experience as either a practicing teacher or as an educator preparing future teachers?

I have been in education for 35 years starting with being a high school Special Education teacher at Gretna Public Schools. Most of my teaching career has been dedicated to preparing teachers to teach. I helped start a teacher education program at Grace University and taught many teaching courses, as well. I have also taught at Concordia University and Doane University before coming to Bellevue University.

I know you grew up and went to school in Japan and the Philippines. Generally, how does education differ around the world? Or, what are the similarities?

One of the biggest differences is that students are bilingual and often multilingual and school is taught in more than one language. Being bilingual is a great addition to learning. Another difference is that U.S. schools foster collaboration and group work while schools around the world tend toward individualism and competitive environments. We also value learning through student engagement in active participation. Asian schools tend to learn through memorization and recitation. The teaching methods may be different but children are children no matter what country and they all deserve the best teachers.

What is your favorite thing about working at Bellevue University?

I love the challenge of the job and the creativity I can bring to planning. Even though my first year was in the middle of the pandemic, I appreciated the faculty I met on Zoom meetings and how encouraging everyone was.

What have you learned over years of experience in preparing teachers?

One thing I have learned has made a difference in all my teaching. One of my favorite quotes explains it well, “Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Teaching is about caring for students first.

Can you give people outside the teaching profession an idea of the depth of preparation that goes into preparing and educating teachers to be in the classroom?

Teacher preparation takes classes in subjects like teaching and learning theories, as well as child development and psychology. Teachers need to be masters of many different areas, including special education, assessment, cultural diversity, and technology. Preparing new teachers means getting them into the classroom environment as soon as possible. Our teachers complete practicum every semester and finish off with full-time student teaching for one semester.

Are there goals moving forward that you would like to share?

Some goals for the Bellevue Teacher Education program include (adding) teaching endorsements in English as a Second Language and Special Education and Middle Level Education. Long-term goals include developing a Master’s (degree) of Arts in Teaching.

What does Bellevue University mean to you?

Bellevue University has meant a place to meet new friends and colleagues. I have found a home in with others who have the passion for preparing teachers.

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