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ND students study education

Stephanie Yahn | Friday, February 20, 2004

Riding his bike over snow-covered train tracks wasn’t exactly what Nick Kheriaty had in mind when he envisioned traveling to class. But in order to get his teaching credentials, the Notre Dame senior had to take his interests across the street to study in the Education Program at Saint Mary’s College.

It has been over 40 years since Notre Dame dissolved its own education school, but few remember a time before students studied education at Saint Mary’s. In order to continue serving undergraduate students who wanted to obtain teacher certification, the University worked with Saint Mary’s to allow students to participate in the College’s program.

At that time, Notre Dame was an all-male university and students mainly went into secondary education rather than elementary education.

“That has all changed now,” said Julie Turner of Notre Dame’s Institute for Educational Initiatives.

Currently, 28 Notre Dame students are enrolled in the Education Program at Saint Mary’s. An additional 25 are taking introductory courses that will help them determine if and how they want to proceed in the program. Should they decide to continue, the students will submit applications for acceptance into the program. Eleven of the 28 students presently admitted are males and a majority of the students share a common focus in secondary education. A handful focus on elementary education.

Notre Dame students are quick to point out there are common misperceptions about studying at Saint Mary’s. Kheriaty admitted it was intimidating to be the only male in his classes.

“The stereotypical perception of the program is that it is easier in comparison, but [the classes] are still very demanding,” said senior Brian South, pointing out that 11 courses are required for the concentration – one course more than his English major.

Both Kheriaty and South’s focus is in secondary education. The requirements are even more rigorous for elementary education students. In addition to taking required education courses, these students must also balance their course load with requirements for their majors.

Such demands put pressure on a student’s class load and could hinder opportunities to study abroad.

“It is completely viable as long as you’re able to schedule your courses around the major,” said South, who studied in Australia during his junior year.

Despite the demands, there is a large network of support and advisors meant to help students. In addition to advisors in their majors and through the Saint Mary’s program, Turner advises the Arts & Letters education students, and Sister Kathleen Cannon assists students in the College of Science.

In spite of the levels of interest in the Education Program, Turner said she does not believe Notre Dame will implement its own education program anytime soon.

“I feel that we are well served by the program at Saint Mary’s,” she said. “To have our own program would be somewhat of a duplication. … [The faculty and staff] are very easy to work with, … very cooperative and supportive of our students.”

In spite of the inconveniences, students spoke highly of the benefits and rewards that they have experienced.

“I’ve really enjoyed the classes,” South said. “They are taught by very capable professors.”

Kheriaty likewise praised the program.

“Student teaching has been a great opportunity,” he said. “In a lot of other schools you have to go a fifth year to student teach. I am glad that I will be certified when I graduate.”

Both students are also busy student teaching at local high schools to fulfill their final requirement. South is a 10th grade English teacher, while Kheriaty teaches physics and physical science. Following a successful completion of the semester, each will need to take two tests before receiving their Indiana teaching credentials, which Kheriaty said are also applicable in 37 states.

While occasionally the road has been bumpy, they said, advisers such as Cannon and Turner work to help make the transition smoother. Turner said she has spent a lot of time talking with the First Year of Studies and the College of Arts & Letters to facilitate the transition.

“I hope that I can help provide information and support to the students and be an advocate for them,” she said.