The next generation of education

Category:  News
Thursday, October 4th, 2018 at 9:42 AM

The future of education looked bright at the school of education’s Teacher Candidacy Ceremony on Thursday, Sept. 27 at Edinboro’s Van Houten dining hall.

The event highlighted the accomplishments of high-achieving students in education majors, while marking a major milestone for the teacher candidates: their entrance into a teacher preparation program, which is the next step on the path to becoming an educator. In order to mark this occasion, as part of the ceremony, the teacher candidates’ names were called, and they each received a pin for their work.

Meeting certain criteria, the students are “only the best” their programs have to offer, said Erinn Lake, executive director of graduate studies and interim dean of the school of education. 

In addition, the event served as an opportunity to “shed light on the importance of the field,” according to Noe Ortega, the deputy secretary for the Office of Postsecondary and Higher Education at the Pennsylvania Department of Education, and one of the keynote speakers at the ceremony.

This was a notion seconded by the other keynote speaker of the event, Michelle Bennett, the Edinboro-based Golden Apple Teacher of the Year 2017-18 award winner, who asked the audience, “Is there any career more valuable than what you’re going into: teaching?”

A physical education teacher at Erie High School, Bennett conveyed to the candidates that their chosen field comes with its challenges: “You will be given responsibilities. You will have hurdles. You will have unbelievable mountains to climb,” she said. “But guess what? You’re going to get to the top of that mountain.”

To overcome their obstacles, Bennett advised the students to have discipline, and, to the laughter and cheers of the audience, emphatically stressed the importance of planning: “Plan, and then plan some more, and then over-plan, and then when you’re done planning, plan some more.”

Planning and preparation was a major theme of the event, and a key part of Ortega’s position with the department of education. 

In his speech, Ortega explained that his job seeks to foster ideal conditions in which teachers and staff have everything they need in order to succeed. “We want to make sure that every single one of you that enters the classroom is school-ready, learner-ready on day one,” he said.

Noting the importance of teaching, Ortega saw the ceremony and its candidates as making a strong collective statement that reads, “Teaching matters…even now, generations of students want to pursue teaching as a career.”

Why is education so significant? According to Ortega, since 2010, enrollment in schools of education has declined at a rate of 40 percent. And to an educator, this was a disheartening fact. “[It’s] tragic, because the need for teachers is critically important,” he said. 

Like Bennett, Ortega notes that there can be difficult times on the road to becoming a teacher, as well as a fair share of bad days once you become a teacher; however, he lent this advice to the future educators: “Remind yourself what it is that drove you to this profession.”

And what is it that drives an educator?

Bea Habursky, assistant superintendent for Erie’s public schools, made this metaphor: “You are the gardener, the students are the seed…they need nurturing.”

This nurturing process, as aforementioned, can be an arduous one, for both the educator and the student. Nevertheless, with a firm educational background already in place and new opportunities with their respective teacher preparation programs, the Edinboro teacher candidates should be well on their way to their careers. 

From there, it’s up to them to put in the work. However, Bennett often finds all the effort to be well worth it and said: “You can’t get that smile off your face, because made a difference.”

Nathan Brennan can be reached at

Tags: news, education

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