New library and classroom to create “teacher leaders”


Assistant Professor Jena Akard celebrates the opening of the College of Education lab classroom.

Editor’s Note: This is an expanded excerpt from the cover article on Lopes Live Labs in the August 2021 issue of GCU Magazine. To view the digital version of the magazine, click here.

Mike Kilen story
Photos of David Kadlubowski
CUU Magazine

The hall on the second floor of the education building has a large window that overlooks the center of the campus, soon teeming with students from all walks of life.

Inside the new multicultural Lopes for Literacy library, it’s easy to see why the leaders of the College of Education were so excited to see and reflect what’s going on in the outside world.

The room is lined with books. Children’s books tell stories of justice, race relations, disabilities and other differences.

WCC students in training to become teachers can come here to immerse themselves in the language and stories of all children and learn to relate to and teach them.

For example, “My Brother Martin: A Sister Remembers Growing Up With Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. is shelved near” We’re Going to Paint the Octopus Red “by Stephanie Stuve Bodeen, which tells the story of another sister – a 6-year-old girl who finds out that her new baby brother has Down syndrome.

Dr Marjaneh Gilpatrick

“Students will be working with a variety of different types of students coming from very different backgrounds,” said Dr Marjaneh Gilpatrick, associate dean of the COE who led the project. “They need to know them and be aware of them and be able to identify and connect with them when they design lessons for them.”

Gilpatrick worked with the GCU library to compile the list of dozens of titles. The room is set up to discuss and record how children learn these subjects through books with a screen nearby for viewing.

“One of the goals of becoming a teacher is not only to help students understand themselves and how they can achieve their life goal, but also to understand others along the way,” COE Dean Dr Meredith Critchfield noted. “These books are therefore essentially windows and mirrors. They give the opportunity to reflect who they are, but they also give a perspective on the world of others.

The library will help prospective teachers develop lesson plans using the books, but will also provide materials for lessons such as early childhood education.

Holding the tools of the trade – the books – while they practice is not just a turning back experience.

“Much of the learning can be focused on lectures. But what we know at the College of Education, the lecture is a learning mode but it is not the higher learning mode. So we need to find ways to actively involve our students in their learning, ”said Critchfield. “This library and the classroom downstairs are ways to kinesthetically involve our students in their learning. This is critical. “

Downstairs, students can enter a room and find it equipped as if they were entering a classroom to teach for the first time.

The new College of Education Lab classroom is a model early childhood and elementary education classroom where teachers will present cutting-edge teaching strategies and techniques to teacher candidates.

In one corner are bins full of “manipulatives,” objects that help students use their hands to learn math, for example, and books to help them learn to read.

“We set it up as an experiential classroom,” said assistant professor Jena Akard, who spearheaded its design. “It’s a family living space where we can learn together and discuss what to do.

The leaders of the College of Education are proud of the new library, including (left to right) Dr Marjaneh Gilpatrick, Dr Meredith Critchfield, Dr Alicia Kozimor, Lauren Balsley and Jena Akard.

Early childhood-friendly decorations, inspirational messages and even soft lamp lighting and warm wallpaper transform the room into a kindergarten-worthy space.

Akard said it’s important to give students a space that looks like them and to experience a real classroom to show how teaching methods can play out right in the space.

“We can’t always say what it will look like outside of GCU, but we can bring it to them. That’s one of the goals, ”Akard said.

It’s even equipped with GCU flags, something Akard encourages teaching applicants to do, and what she did as a young teacher – promote college entry.

“I said to my kids, ‘You’re going to college.’ I want to give that to my students to tell their children, from kindergarten to the end, to see themselves as a lifelong learner, ”she said.

Equally important is the “teacher leaders” banner, a reminder that when students leave GCU, they are not only academically prepared, they are professionals. In this room, that’s exactly how they’re treated – ready to lead.

The library and classroom fit seamlessly into the campus-wide effort that highlights applied learning where training comes to life.

Critchfield had a concise way of putting it, looking over the model classroom: “It’s not sitting down and being done. It is learning and doing.

Grand Canyon University Senior Writer Mike Kilen can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-6764.


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