News and Events
A New Approach to Teacher Education
Dr. Tony Collatos is leading a revolution in teacher education. Yet, according to Collatos, the Urban Parent/Teacher Education Collaborative (UPTEC), one of the first programs of its kind in the nation, is simply the most logical method of preparing future educators to work in urban schools.
“It’s amazing how much it makes sense, but it seems to be so revolutionary,” Collatos says. “What we’ve really been trying to work on through UPTEC is a new, critical model of teacher education, where we bring the voices of the youth, their communities, and their families into the preparation of new teachers.”
In order to accomplish this mission, Collatos and parent advocate Mary Johnson, known for her work with Parent U-turn, are co-teaching a year-long pilot program at the Pepperdine Graduate School of Education and Psychology (GSEP), where Collatos is in his second year as assistant professor of education.
The program, which currently has 15 students, is based on the dual premise that teachers, especially those who plan to teach in urban schools, need to be prepared to work with parents and communities as well as students, and that the best way to prepare for that is to learn directly from those parents and community members.
The idea for UPTEC, Collatos observes, arose in the course of another education research project at UCLA called Futures, which he became involved with while teaching social studies at Santa Monica High School. The Futures project tracked the college access pathways of 30 first-generation, low-income students of color and, uniquely, actively involved those students, the subjects of the study, as critical social researchers throughout the course of the study. Collatos described Futures, which began in 1998 and continues today, as a compelling example of the intersection of research and practice, or praxis.
“It was powerful. We had 15-year-olds presenting at some of the most prestigious education conferences in the nation,” Collatos remembers. “I was also very blessed for the students to let me into their lives. It has made me a better educator, a better professor and a better person because it allowed me to better understand their life experiences in ways that I couldn’t experience from my position.”
The hands-on nature of the students’ roles in Futures led Collatos to consider a similar approach for teacher education by parents and parent advocates.
“It became very obvious that it was powerful not only to have students speaking to future educators but also to have parents speaking to future educators,” Collatos notes.
He and Johnson have presented initial findings at a number of education conferences, including the California Educational Research Association conference and the national Title I conference in November 2006, where they received an enthusiastic and positive response concerning UPTEC and Pepperdine’s willingness to validate Johnson’s knowledge and experience as a grassroots parent advocate.
According to Collatos, UPTEC is currently pursuing funding for a second year and the next phase of the program, in which he and Johnson would separate in order to team-teach with another university professor and another parent advocate, essentially doubling the program’s size and creating a model for its continued growth.
“I feel strongly about social justice and serving the greater Los Angeles community,” Collatos says. “When I was asked why I came to Pepperdine and what I hoped to accomplish, I said, ‘My real hope is to bring the work I’m doing and the work we’re doing here at Pepperdine east of the 405.’"
His passion for this goal increases with his day-to-day experiences. "Ninety percent of the student population in California and in the nation attend public schools, so while many of us have been blessed to attend a private school or university, many students are not so blessed in terms of having under resourced institutions, schools that don’t have credentialed teachers, schools that are overcrowded. It’s very important for those of us who are in a position to deeply, positively influence the educational experiences of all students, to continue to do that.”
By Cara Van Meter