Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Vol. CLIV, Issue 8
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Teaching After Whitman

With graduation only a month away, there’s one pressing question that is becoming more and more of a reality for the senior class: what are you going to do after college?

It might be surprising to some that many Whitman students choose to pursue careers in a subject that isn’t even offered as a major on campus: education.

“It has always shown that that is what a lot of our students end up going onto,” said the Director of the Career Center Susan Buchanan on teaching, or other education-oriented jobs.”It’s so wonderful to be excited about a subject…to be able to share that with someone else; it’s a gift,” said Buchanan.

According to Professor Kay Fenimore-Smith, in the past Whitman offered an education program as part of the education minor that enabled students to work towards a teaching certification as an undergraduate. That program was discontinued in December 2006.

“To my knowledge there was never an education major,” said Fenimore-Smith in an e-mail.The lack of an education major, however, has not deterred students from pursuing careers in education. Some of the most popular programs for Whitman students to pursue teaching after graduating include Teach for America, the Japanese Exchange and Teaching program (JET), Whitman in China and the Peace Corps. Whitman in China sends six Whitman students or recent alumni to China to teach English for a year.JET is a similar program, although it’s based in Japan and is a larger national organization.

“JET is very popular,” said Buchanan. “There have been years where we’ve had double digits [of graduating seniors participating in JET].”

Graduating seniors interested in pursuing work as a teacher might also consider the University of Puget Sound Cooperative 4-1 Program Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT), in which students follow their four-year Whitman education with a one-year program on the Puget Sound campus that culminates in a MAT and Washington State Teaching Certificate.

The Peace Corps has traditionally been one of the most popular post-graduation programs for Whitman students landing Whitman among the top of the Peace Corps-yielding small colleges. Recently, however, there has been a slight decline in Peace Corps recruitment at Whitman, as last year the number of Whitman alumni in the Peace Corps dropped from 19 to 11. While this drop could very well be attributed to yearly flux, several students wondered if this could be part of a trend attributed to the fact that some students perceive the Peace Corps to be more imperialistic.

“The imperialistic nature of the Peace Corps is definitely a legitimate concern, but it definitely depends where you’re going and what kind of work you’re doing,” said senior Colin Miller who will be joining the Peace Corps this next year. “I’m probably going to do environmental education and I guess you can construe that as imperialistic in that people are going into another country and telling people what’s best for them,” said Miller.

“I think we live in a world today where it’s hard to consider…the needs of a community on a purely local scale. I think a lot of the times a community does know what’s best for themselves but they need the resources or the expertise to better manage their resources from the developed world,” said Miller.

Some students who would normally consider the Peace Corps instead opt for domestic programs like Teach for America. Teach for America is a non-profit that provides rigorous training and support for recent college graduates who commit to teach for two years at a low-income school.

“[Teach for America] fits well with the belief system that is Whitman,” said Buchanan. “We realize ‘what do we love the most? Learning!’ So we want to give back.”

Indeed, Teach for America has skyrocketed in popularity both at Whitman and across the country. “I’ve seen a steady increase, particularly in the past three years, in interest for Teach for America,” said Buchanan. Buchanan doesn’t know exactly how many Whitman students applied for Teach for America this year because the application can be done online, but says that there was a great deal of interest among students.

“I’ve heard they’re hiring eight [Whitman students], but I know of five so far,” said Buchanan of Teach for America.

This year’s class of Teach for America teachers from Whitman will be headed to everywhere from Honolulu to New Orleans to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

“Teach for America has identified Whitman as a great source for them, and the students they’ve hired: and they’ve hired a lot: have done a really great job,” said Buchanan. “So they’re really targeting Whitman [students] for the quality and the caring that they bring to these sometimes difficult places.”

Between 2000 and 2006 Teach for America experienced huge growth and nearly tripled the number of teachers they train each year to over 2,400, while the acceptance rate of applicants dropped to around 20 percent.

Teach for America has its downsides as well.

“I have problems with [Teach for America],” said senior Eduardo Duquez. “Well, it’s not a Teach for America problem, but more of an education in America problem. And it’s because we’re sending the most unqualified people to the places you need the most qualified people for.”

Duquez also questioned the temporary nature of Teach for America and expressed concern that it’s often viewed as just something to do for two years that will look good on a resume.

“I guess I’m just afraid that it burns people out too fast…but I guess it’s a good Band-aid for now,” said Duquez.Buchanan maintains that going into education: whether through the Peace Corps, Teach for America or any of the multitude of other opportunities: is a great option for Whitman students. “I think Whitman students in general may not initially think of teaching as a career option,” said Buchanan. “But as they finish up at Whitman they realize that they love learning, and a lot of our students go on to teach in one capacity or another.”

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