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March 14, 2007

Preparing Educators Together program thriving as seen at open house

image of PET ribbon cuttingIn conjunction with their partnership in the Preparing Educators Together (PET) program, Cowley College and Wichita State University held an open house and ribbon cutting ceremony Monday night at Cowley College’s Mulvane Bloomenshine Center.

The open house allowed individuals interested in the program to meet current students, instructors and administrators. It also allowed those individuals to learn how to earn a degree in elementary education.

Students in the PET program earn their associates degree though Cowley College then apply to WSU’s College of Education where they will begin four additional semesters of education courses.

Those WSU courses are taught at the Cowley College Mulvane site and beamed to the Arkansas City campus via Interactive Distance Learning. Courses are usually offered after 4 p.m. to allow for those who are already working in the schools a more flexible scheduling option.

Gary Miller, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Research at Wichita State University, is pleased with the partnership with Cowley.

“I think the program is great, especially considering the shortage of teachers in Kansas and the great challenge we have nation wide with teacher education,” Miller said. “I think this is a fabulous collaboration.”
Students complete the field experiences and student teaching requirements in schools located in their own communities within Cowley and Sumner Counties. This allows students to earn a four-year degree from a location closer to home while maintaining their work schedules.

“We know geography and sometimes opportunity can be major impediments to individuals pursuing a college education, including teacher education,” said Wichita State University Dean, Jon Engelhardt. “So, we are especially pleased to work together with Cowley County Community College in this joint effort. Cowley has been a wonderful partner in developing this over some number of years.”

Melody Bryson, a current student in the program, will earn her associates degree from Cowley in May and begin taking classes in the PET program at Wichita State University in the fall.

After moving to Conway Springs last year, Bryson heard about the PET program and decided to give it a shot. She is happy she made the decision to enroll in the program.

“The fact that they have this program offered in this location makes it a logical choice, it’s more convenient than driving all the way into Wichita,” Bryson said. “The teachers, staff and advisors have been with me every step of the way, providing continual support. Everyone throughout Cowley has been a rock.”

Bryson credits her involvement in the program to her being recently offered a job working in the Mulvane school district.

“Without this program nobody would know who Melody Bryson was,” Bryson said.

Sheree Utash, Cowley College Vice President of Student and Academic Affairs, along with Wichita State University’s Dr. Lori Miller, helped lay the groundwork for the program.

“The vision that began this whole thing was to put together something that would be a win-win situation for the local school districts, our students and Wichita State,” Utash said. “It’s a true model of a really successful collaborative effort.”

Donna Augustine-Shaw, Superintendent of schools in Mulvane, believes the program benefits all of the individuals involved.

“This program has been a dream for the district as well as the college,” Augustine-Shaw said. “One of the biggest benefits is that teachers who are preparing to enter schools and to consider education as a career, get a first hand experience in our classrooms and get to see the curriculum that is required of them. Hopefully, it benefits both the school districts that are involved as well as the teachers who are preparing to enter this field.”

Janci Ramirez, who takes classes at the Arkansas City campus, was among the current students that took part in the open house/ribbon cutting ceremony.

“I’m happy to be in the program,” Ramirez said. “It’s nice to be able to take classes in Arkansas City, it saves me a lot of money in gas and is convenient.”

The fall enrollment is expected to be at full capacity in the IDL classrooms.

“It’s a great problem to have,” Shirley Lefever-Davis, Department Chair for Curriculum Instruction at Wichita state University said.

With classes filling up, the future of the program has some tremendous growth abilities including the possibility of classes being taught online.

“I’m thrilled that the program is growing at the pace that it is,” Utash said.