New Educational Studies Major Offered

classroom chairs with a chalkboard in the backroom

Last spring, the Rhodes College faculty approved the new educational studies major, providing preparation and support for students interested in careers in education. The major is offered by the Educational Studies Program, which has three major tracks—Teaching and Learning, Community and Social Change, and Policy and Reform. 

Mark Armour, a senior educational studies major, says, “I started an internship with the Exceptional Foundation of West Tennessee in the summer of 2014, working with adults and children with special needs. I immediately fell in love with the participants and my work and wanted to pursue a career in special education. With the approval of the educational studies major happening so recently, I was thrilled to jump in and take as many education courses as possible!”

Rhodes also is moving forward with plans to include a teacher licensure program as part of this new major. With support from the administration, faculty across the campus are working hard to develop the program, which must then be approved by the Tennessee Department of Education and will require a formal partnership agreement with Shelby County Schools (SCS). If all goes as planned, the licensure program will begin Fall 2016.

According to Dr. Natalie Person, chair of the Educational Studies Program, “The new major and the licensure program will prepare Rhodes students to work in urban schools and will provide employment opportunities for our students who want to stay in Memphis.”

Rebekah Barr, also a senior educational studies major and a Kipp Memphis Preparatory Schools intern, says she comes from a family of teachers but had never considered herself a teacher until taking the Foundations of Education course at Rhodes. “I’m excited to have and teach my own class next year post graduation. I plan to apply to several alternative teaching programs in New York City, Boston, and Memphis. Ideally, I’d love to teach ninth grade English in a public school.”

The teaching and learning track of the Educational Studies Program will contain the licensure program and is designed for students who wish to work in public school settings as teachers, administrators, and counselors. Students will gain teaching experience in at least one middle school, one special education setting, and one high school. Once students have graduated and passed required state-based content area examinations, they will complete a ninth semester student teaching clinical practice in two diverse placements in either a high school or middle school in Shelby County Schools. Students who successfully complete the Rhodes program will have a license to teach in Tennessee as secondary teachers. Elementary licensure is expected to be added in the near future.

The community and social change track is designed for students who wish to work in non-formal school spaces such as with youth leadership and empowerment organizations, non-profits, adult education, and community centers. Students who wish to work in local, state, and federal policy centers, governmental organizations, law, and other advocacy groups can enroll in the policy and reform track.

Person explains the Rhodes program differs from other teacher preparation programs in that it is firmly grounded in the liberal arts. “Not only do our students study education through a comprehensive liberal arts lens, but they also integrate their classroom experiences in a number of diverse school settings during their course of study,” she says. “The turnover rate for many alternative licensure programs is staggering, and we know that we can do a better job of preparing teachers for the challenges they will face working in public schools with learners who have diverse needs.”

“Memphis is in many ways one of the ‘front lines’ of educational reform,” adds Dr. Zachary Casey, assistant professor of educational studies. “We are in a city that is attempting to transform decades of poverty through innovative practices in classrooms, and the eyes of the nation are on Tennessee and Memphis in particular with hopes that successful initiatives here can be transferred to other high poverty urban school contexts. We know our students are some of the best and brightest young minds in the country. We believe firmly that our graduates will be well positioned to engage others in cultivating practices that lead to increased student confidence and performance.”