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Graduate School of Education News

Julie Gess-Newsome, dean of the Graduate School of EducationJulie Gess-Newsome, dean of the Graduate School of Education

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New education dean knowledgeable in teaching and administration

Julie Gess-Newsome, Willamette University’s new dean of the Graduate School of Education, brings with her 20 years of experience as a teacher, researcher and administrator.

Most recently the J. Lawrence Walkup Distinguished Professor of Science Education and director of the Center for Science Teaching and Learning at Northern Arizona University, Gess-Newsome is a nationally recognized leader in secondary science and mathematics education.

She has earned multiple awards for her work and has authored or co-authored several books about teaching science. She began her new position at Willamette in June.

Q: Of your experience, what do you think will be most useful to you as dean?

I am a former high school and middle school science teacher, and one of the things that taught me is that teachers never receive enough guidance in how to do well in the classroom. It’s important for me to think about how the GSE can do a good job preparing teachers in all disciplines.

I previously worked at the University of Utah as chair of the department of educational studies, where we coordinated all the teacher education programs. I gained an understanding of how education works across all fields, and how we interact with the public schools to prepare teachers.

From there I went to Northern Arizona University, where I directed the Center for Science Teaching and Learning. That position taught me how to work with academic programs across the university, and how to provide programs for teachers who are already in the field.

Q: Why did you want to come to Willamette’s Graduate School of Education?

Willamette has an excellent reputation and strong, dynamic faculty members. Coming from a state institution, I recognize how limiting some of the state programs can be. A private university like Willamette has tremendous flexibility to impact audiences in different ways, and to carve out a unique niche in the state and beyond.

Q: Why is Willamette’s program a good choice for teacher training?

Willamette brings two things to the table that other institutions don’t. One is that our students work in the field right from the beginning of the program. This allows them to develop their classroom management skills, to understand how to best interact with students and to focus on student learning as the most important outcome.

The second thing is that we couple most of the degrees with endorsements, either in the areas of special education or English language learners. Teachers who specialize in these two areas are greatly needed in schools in Oregon and across the country. By having those endorsements, our graduates have a leg up in the job market.

Q: How does the GSE’s diverse array of programs put the school in a position to respond to teachers’ needs?

Many potential students have commitments that don’t allow them to leave their communities for schooling, so the expansion of the online programs at the GSE is going to meet a need that was underserved in the past. Additionally, our Master of Education degree can help in-service teachers who want to go back to school to enhance their career.

The most important teacher in the school to help you become a teacher is the one next door. But the problem is that the teachers next door often have the same kind of preparation as you. One idea that has great potential is that of training master teachers, so that there is a resource person in each school who can help others do a better job.

Becoming a curriculum specialist — someone who knows how to select curriculum, how to coach other teachers, how to work well with beginners — is a skill set that’ll help the teachers already in the field stay in the field longer.

Q: How do you plan to work with local school districts to continue to enhance their relationship with Willamette?

We need to see what we have available that is helpful to these districts — whether it’s an MEd program, training for teacher leaders and administrators or endorsements for their teachers. In return, I want to talk with them about how their schools can be important places for our students to learn what it means to be a good teacher — and hopefully to create the kinds of teachers they will want to hire in the future.

Q: How will you reach out to our network of alumni?

Alumni are probably one of the most valuable resources that any institution has. I look forward to meeting with our alumni, talking with them about their experiences, finding out how Willamette shaped their lives and helping them find ways to reconnect with us.