May 24, 2023

Inaugural Part-Time Elementary Teaching Cohort Succeeds with 100% Graduation Rate

This new pathway to teaching for K-12 school employees increases access to the elementary teaching program and accommodates the needs of full-time working professionals.

The 2023 part-time elementary MAT cohort. Left to right, front: Kathryn Webster, Sirenia Gonzalez, Gloria Oliva, Brenda Garzon, Greg Swet... The 2023 part-time elementary MAT cohort. Left to right, front: Kathryn Webster, Sirenia Gonzalez, Gloria Oliva, Brenda Garzon, Greg Swett. Left to right, back: Naomi Sprague, Megan McCue, Sarah Kalgren, Jennifer Anderson, Maria Quinones, Taehee Kim.June 4th, 2023 marks the day that 100% of the inaugural cohort of part-time elementary master of arts in teaching (MAT) candidates will walk across the commencement stage and into their collective future as elementary school teachers. Two years ago, the part-time elementary cohort began as a pilot project—an exploration aligned with the graduate school’s mission. It was intended to increase access to the elementary MAT program by opening a new pathway to teaching for K-12 school employees that accommodated the needs of full-time working professionals.

When it all came together, the inaugural cohort was made up of 11 students, and over half identified as BIPOC.

Linda Griffin, elementary MAT program director, explains the motivation for opening a pathway to the program for district employees: “Lewis & Clark places great value on the work classified staff currently do in schools. They already have an impressive set of skills for working with elementary-aged students and play an essential role in supporting the work of teachers in their school district. We want to help them deepen their knowledge and expand their skill set so they can become even more essential in the lives of the children they serve.”

Emily Fortune Hancock, strategic partnership coordinator, says another important motivator to offer the part-time cohort was rooted in removing barriers that many of these prospective students faced.

Taehee Kim, Elementary MAT '23 Taehee Kim, Elementary MAT ’23 Most graduate programs require their students to go full time and that wasn’t possible for me. When Lewis & Clark came to the Beaverton School District with this part-time MAT pilot program, I knew it was an opportunity that I couldn’t miss.”

Taehee Kim, Elementary MAT ’23

The part-time elementary cohort enables classified staff to continue working in their current position and earning their full salary while completing the elementary MAT program. The cohort meets in-person at Lewis & Clark in the summers and a few Saturdays during the school year, with the remaining coursework offered in the evenings and online. Additionally, all admitted students automatically receive a scholarship covering approximately one third of their tuition amount.

“The fact that these folks don’t have to quit their jobs or compete for scholarships in order to join our program is really important,” says Hancock.

Jennifer Anderson is also a current student in the part-time elementary cohort and says she sees the graduate school’s mission of social justice, equity, and access represented throughout the MAT program.

Jennifer Anderson, Elementary MAT '23 Jennifer Anderson, Elementary MAT ’23 As a Chahta, social justice is very important to me. I plan to not only introduce SB13 curriculum—SB13 is legislation that requires the inclusion of Native American history in Oregon as part of the K-12 curriculum—but also other social justice topics from the multiple perspectives that I teach.”

Jennifer Anderson, Elementary MAT ’23

Anderson also observes that the part-time MAT option “feels like the graduate school is really following through on the access portion of their mission.”

Describing the bond between the first part-time cohort and the elementary program faculty as very strong, Griffin says the cohort has been tenacious, flexible, and dedicated from day one.

“Being a part-time student in a rigorous program while working full-time and managing all the other aspects of life and family outside of school takes superhuman strength at times. But these students faced these challenges with grace and mutual support. As a result, they are leaving the program grounded in social justice principles and well-prepared to become transformative, equity-minded educators.”

Griffin is humbled by the cohort’s dedication to the important work of teaching elementary students, and Hancock says it has been powerful to work alongside the partner districts. The entire part-time elementary team looks forward to the new collaborations that will allow even more future teachers to earn a master’s degree while working full-time, and Griffin notes that there are many reasons to take that journey with Lewis & Clark.

“We worked with Beaverton School District and Sherwood School District for the first two years,” she says. “Both have been amazing partners who have allowed us to navigate the unique circumstances of full-time employees participating as part-time students, including completing their student teaching practicum in the district.”

The 2023 part-time elementary MAT cohort The 2023 part-time elementary MAT cohort“Beaverton appreciates working with Lewis & Clark because of the strong equity lens that is intertwined throughout the entire MAT program,” says Stephanie Herb, an instructional mentor and university partnership liaison with the district. “The first two years of the pilot did not come without challenges, but Lewis & Clark has been a fantastic partner to work with throughout the whole process. Everyone from the planning team to the graduating participants persevered through these rigorous, yet very rewarding, first few years. We look forward to seeing how this partnership continues to flourish in the future.”

Thanks to the inaugural cohort’s overwhelming success, several more school districts across the Portland metro area have signed on to offer the opportunity to their classified staff beginning in 2023.

“We’ve learned so much about what makes a strong partnership—open, honest, and responsive communication and a shared purpose,” says Hancock. “It really does take a village to raise a teacher, and it’s been wonderful to work in deep collaboration with our partners. Because of all we’ve learned, we feel confident expanding our cohort to more local districts.”

On behalf of the entire Graduate School of Education and Counseling, thank you for taking the leap with us two years ago! Your future elementary school students are so lucky to have you.

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Applications are currently open for Summer 2023.