NAU: Wellspring of inspiration for needed teachers

Note: The following article by President Haeger appeared in The Arizona Republic on May 17, 2009, in a special section devoted to Arizona’s universities and their impact in the state.

NAU: Wellspring of inspiration for needed teachers

by John Haeger, NAU President
May 17, 2009 12:00 AM

Sarah Baird, Arizona’s 2009 Teacher of the Year, credits her student experience at Northern Arizona University as one of the defining moments in her journey to becoming an educator.

Sarah has shared that her childhood, marked by instability, meant that she initially didn’t pursue her full potential in school.

She wrote me recently that NAU is where “I started to feel successful for the first time in my education.”

Drawing from experiences with her own teachers, Sarah said she learned that to be a good teacher she had to see students’ potential and, as she said, “challenge them, confront them, inspire them and teach them.”

That is what Northern Arizona University strives to do in preparing Arizona teachers like Sarah Baird. The very foundation of this university is built on preparing teachers. One in four of our students at NAU is an education major.

Our College of Education helped pioneer the concept of putting future teachers in real classrooms as part of their learning experience.

We now prepare about 700 teachers each year for Arizona’s schools, including Flagstaff, Maricopa County and the rest of the state.

We also offer the greatest number of master’s degrees in the state for practicing teachers, aspiring principals and school counselors.

It takes a university to educate a teacher. Future teachers at NAU take from half to more than 80 percent of their coursework from departments across campus, such as English, math, biology and other disciplines.

The entire campus community takes on the obligation of preparing those teachers: To challenge, confront and inspire them to engage a child’s mind.

Our commitment to educators has led to many innovations.

We were among the first to offer completely online graduate degrees. We created alternative delivery systems to accommodate working adults and professionals who wanted to change careers and move from the boardroom into the classroom.

More recently, Northern Arizona University became one of only 13 universities in the nation to receive a multimillion-dollar grant to prepare much-needed math and science teachers for our state.

This innovative program, called NAUTeach, will help us more than double the number of math and science teachers we graduate each year.

It also is significant that NAU ranks first in the United States for master’s degrees for Native Americans and typically in the top five for Hispanics.

Northern Arizona University is proud of its distinctive programs in forestry, the sciences, environmental sustainability, nursing, and hotel and restaurant management, but every outstanding program has at its core the teachers who inspire students to innovate, discover and achieve.