Graduates and students of Bluefield College’s Teacher Education Program (TEP) have known for years just how excellent the instruction is. And now, after completing a nearly two-year-long evaluation of BC’s Division of Education, TEAC knows, and the sanctioning body recognized as a national accreditor by the United States Department of Education acknowledged that quality with a full stamp of approval for BC’s teacher licensure program in its December Accreditation Committee decisions.
“Only a bare majority of the nation’s college and university teacher education programs are nationally accredited,” said Dr. Frank B. Murray, president of TEAC, about the less than 100 schools with TEAC-approved programs. “We welcome Bluefield College to this select group.”
TEAC earned its distinction as a nationally recognized accrediting agency in 2003 when the U.S. Department of Education completed an extensive review of the agency’s quality and integrity standards. An accreditor of undergraduate and graduate K-12 teacher education programs, TEAC is also recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Founded in 1997, TEAC is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving academic degree programs for professional educators. Accreditation by TEAC is a voluntary system of quality review designed to assure both education professionals and the public of an institution’s commitment to academic excellence, fiscal integrity, and ongoing review and improvement in its teacher education program. “Graduates of accredited programs can be confident that they are well prepared as competent, caring, and qualified educators,” said Rebecca Pelton, vice president for TEAC. “That’s the main goal of TEAC.”
To be accredited, a teacher education program must demonstrate solid, independently verifiable evidence of its graduates’ competence. In particular, the program must show that its graduates understand the subject matter they are certified to teach, understand the process of learning and teaching, and possess teaching skills that lead students to appropriate levels of achievement. The program must also have an ongoing process for reviewing and improving its curriculum and must demonstrate that it has the capacity to offer quality education.
“This accreditation is a significant accomplishment in the life of Bluefield College,” said Dr. Robert Shippey, vice president for academic affairs, “and the result of countless hours of service on the part of many in our academic community, particularly those in the Division of Education.”
Under the direction of Dr. Donna Watson, chair of the Division Education, and Phyllis Owens, instructor of education, Bluefield College began its pursuit of TEAC accreditation in the summer of 2008 with a nine-month process of collecting and analyzing data, conducting research, and writing and rewriting an Inquiry Brief for TEAC.
“The accreditation process required a lot of time and effort, but the rewards are many,” said Dr. Watson. “In addition to national accreditation, we were able to improve our program and connect with graduates, the community, and public school colleagues throughout Tazewell, Bland, and Mercer Counties. I appreciate the dedication and hard work of our Division of Education team, instructor Phyllis Owens and administrative assistant Jennifer Thorn.”
In April 2009, TEAC sent an auditing group to Bluefield to evaluate its Teacher Education Program. Following the on-site review, BC officials participated in an Accreditation Panel hearing in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in November 2009. The result of the nearly two-year-long process: unanimous approval for accreditation from the TEAC Accreditation Committee in December 2009.
“I’m grateful for the support of our teacher education students, as well as the faculty and staff of Bluefield College,” Dr. Watson added. “I’m confident that the national accreditation of Bluefield College’s Teacher Education Program will provide many benefits for our graduates, not only while they are students, but also in their future careers.”
Since 1977, Bluefield College has graduated highly qualified educators who serve as outstanding teachers and administrators in public and private schools in Virginia and across the nation. With the Bluefield College transcript now reflecting national accreditation by TEAC, the highly qualified graduates of BC’s Teacher Education Program have an additional component to verify their credentials.
“Bluefield College is an excellent place for beginning teachers to explore the teaching world,” said alumna Bianca Adams, an eight-year veteran of the teaching profession who recently earned Teacher of the Year honors for Forsyth County Schools in North Carolina. “With great faculty and one-on-one, personalized attention, I grew in all aspects of my life. Bluefield prepared me for the types of obstacles and rewards I now encounter as a teacher.”
Also endorsed by the Virginia Department of Education and now joining the likes of Boston College, Michigan State University, Princeton University, Rutgers University, Temple University, and The University of Virginia with TEAC accreditation, BC’s Teacher Education Program offers undergraduate programs for teacher licensure in elementary education, art, health and physical education, music, biology, business, chemistry, English, history, mathematics, and social sciences. The program was founded in the mid-1970s by professor emeritus Gerald Clay, who actually began BC’s relationship with TEAC before his retirement by gaining affiliate membership with the organization in 2001.
“Dr Clay’s legacy of quality in teacher education is well known throughout the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Watson, “and his high standards, extensive data records, and clearly articulated goals, in addition to ongoing approval through the Virginia Department of Education, laid the foundation for TEAC accreditation for our Teacher Education Program. As a former student and colleague of Dr. Clay, I am honored to continue this tradition of excellence.”