Jimenez

YC student Amber Jimenez poses with a group of volunteers for an education department exercise at York College. Pictured are: (back row) Andrew Van Gomple, Amber Jimenez, Hadley Eckert, Lily Houston; (middle row) Naomi Spivey, Zoey Eckert, Charlie Van Gomple; (front row) TJ Spivey and Ava Goodwin.

YORK -- For York College students in training to become teachers, an elite accreditation recently secured by the education department is making their degree more valuable.

The recognition is from the Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation (CAEP) and it is the only national accreditation available for teacher education. The standards are more rigorous and the process is more comprehensive than with the previously available accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE).

York College is just one of three schools in Nebraska to have this level of accreditation currently, and one of 238 nationwide. It was a strenuous process that required a considerable amount of time and resources, but it was worth it for the future of the program, said Dr. Erin DeHart, chair of the Department of Education.

“It’s what our students need. So many of our students aren’t from Nebraska and many of them go elsewhere to teach,” said DeHart. “National accreditation means their degree is good anywhere. This accreditation states to everyone that we are established and that we are continuing to pursue excellence.”

The reaccreditation process happens every seven years under CAEP, but requires continued documentation and data each semester to maintain their accreditation status. The accreditation study and ongoing evaluation helps the department to improve — and shows where they are succeeding, says DeHart.

“We’ve made a lot of progress since the last accreditation period. It’s been great to see the impact our students are having on the world. The process revealed that our partnerships with K-12 schools are strong and that our candidates and alumni are doing great in the classrooms where they are serving,” DeHart said, noting that the department has a nearly 100 percent placement rate for graduates as well as ongoing support and training for alumni.

One of the areas the department will focus on in the future is increasing diversity of candidates. DeHart noted that though the York College campus is highly diverse, that is not reflected in the teacher education program. Ensuring that there is adequate diversity in program helps create more diversity in classrooms across the country. “Increasing diversity within the teaching force is a national focus for all teacher educator programs in the U.S.,” said DeHart.

Though challenging, the CAEP accreditation process was also very validating, as CAEP had many good things to say about York College in its report. Alumni, also, were very positive.

“It’s rewarding to connect with our young alumni and see the impact they are making,” said DeHart, mentioning one alumna who has taught for several years in Grand Island and is now preparing to teach in Rwanda, and the many others who are bringing excellence to their schools across the state and nation.

The success of the program is thanks in part to partnerships with local schools. “We loop in area principals to adjunct in the program. That is so helpful for our students because what they bring to the class is so relevant. It also gives the students a point of connection with local schools,” said DeHart. This also improves the pipeline to employment, as many local school districts recruit York College graduates.

DeHart is grateful for the work of her colleagues in the education department through the accreditation process, as well as the YC administration that supported the process. “This process is especially hard for a small school where we all wear so many hats,” she said. “We couldn’t have done it without excellent team work from everyone involved.”

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