September 05, 2017

Dr. Deborah Nieding, Associate Professor, Chair of Teacher Education

We’re continually changing the way that we teach in order to better prepare our candidates for the future. By striving to do things we haven’t done before, in that way, we are always taking risks. One of the ways that the School of Education is doing this is through community outreach. By helping our candidates find ways to give back to the community, we are connecting our work to wherever there is a need. When these needs arise, we say, “What if?”

Developing the Master’s program at Charles Lwanga College of Education in Monze, Zambia, was one such risk. An endeavor taken on by many at the School of Education, I was placed solely in charge of the student candidates. Taking them all the way across the planet, I wasn’t fully certain at the time if this would all work out. The biggest obstacle was not actually in Zambia, but here at home, convincing the families of Gonzaga students that their experience would be safe. I assured the candidates’ parents that I would watch over their children as if they were my own and reassured them that the trip would prove to be a valuable experience- and it was.

Our Saturday Literacy Program is another “risky” project that comes to mind. The program offers Education candidates an opportunity to volunteer their time on Saturdays, tutoring Spokane community, at-risk youth, grades 1-6, in reading and writing. The program just by itself is a risk every single week. It’s not funded externally, so the teacher education program budget pays for the two teachers, and snacks, which are essential because some of the children have not have had a proper meal since the day before. Working with this population, it’s never certain if they will have the means to get there either, but we’re committed to it regardless, every single Saturday.

Looking to the future, I’d love to see the teacher education program expand to greater global outreach opportunities and take culturally relevant, responsible teaching to places well beyond the Spokane area. I see this as a definite possibility, as our faculty, Drs. Jonas Cox, Jerri Shepard, James Hunter and Heidi Nordstrom, recently traveled to Zambia where projects are currently being developed for our education students to make a further impact there. These projects are not only being developed for our students but also students in all fields of study at Gonzaga. We are forever exploring, taking risks, looking to the future and asking, “What’s next?”