May 2014 Archives

FREE Summer Science and Math Foundational Level Institute for Teachers

By Lina Raffaelli on May 27, 2014 2:13 PM

Student looking through microscope If you are a credentialed teacher who wants to teach math or science, Sonoma State University has just the program for you! This summer the School of Education at Sonoma State University is offering a Foundational Level Mathematics Institute at SSU, as well as two Foundational Level Science Institutes, located in Santa Rosa and Napa. These free programs are designed for teachers who currently hold a Multiple or Single Subject Teaching Credential and provides them the opportunity to add an additional credential.

The Institutes offer both a content methods course and content review to prepare and assist teachers to pass the CSET's. Participants will earn 5 units of credit and will only need cover the cost of their own books.

For more information about the Foundational Level Mathematics Institute, please visit Information on the Foundational Level Science Institute can be found at

Both program application deadlines have been extended to May 30th.

Napa Science Institute deadline: June 15th EXTENDED TO JUNE 30! We still have room!

ieSonoma Event June 9 Features Design Thinking in Education

By Pamela Van Halsema on May 21, 2014 10:00 AM

Sonoma State School of Education is pleased to be a co-host of the 2014 ieSonoma event on Monday, June 9, 8:30am-12:30pm at Sonoma Country Day School in Santa Rosa.  The event is focused the changing demands of the 21st century and how our community, and its schools, must respond to meet those demands. Two keynote speakers will be featured, Dr. Sugata Mitra and Nirvan Mullick. A discussion on "Design Thinking in Education" will include a panel of experts, including Greg Bamford, Kristen Swanson, and others to be announced.

Sugata MitraDr. Sugata Mitra is Professor of Educational Technology at the School of Education, Communication and Language Sciences at Newcastle University, England. His 30 years of research spans a wide range of disciplines, but he has earned the greatest recognition for his creative experiment known as the Hole in the Wall, which showed that children can teach themselves and each other when they're motivated by curiosity and peer interest. This work inspired the book and award-winning movie Slumdog Millionaire. Dr. Mitra received the 2013 TED Prize and was named one of the Top 10 Thinkers of 2013 by CNN.

Nirvan MullickNirvan Mullick is a filmmaker, creative consultant, speaker, and entrepreneur. His animated short films have screened in festivals worldwide. In 2001, he began an ongoing collaborative experiment called The 1 Second Film, which was one of the first crowd-funded films. In 2012, he directed Caine's Arcade, an 11-minute film that became a viral phenomenon, receiving over 8 million views and sparking a global movement of "cardboard creativity." Mullick subsequently founded the non-profit Imagination Foundation to find, foster, and fund creativity and entrepreneurship in children. He has received the Dan Eldon Creative Activist Award and Innovation in Action award.

Registration is free for teachers and students using the promotional code innovate14 on the registration form, but tickets are limited.  General admission is $40 for non-teachers.  To register, see this registration page


About ieSonoma

ieSonoma is a partnership of educational institutions and the larger community dedicated to exploring the research, theory, and practice of transforming education for the 21st century. The partnership was initiated by SCOE in collaboration with founding partners Sonoma Country Day School and Sonoma State University and is aligned to the Cradle to Career Sonoma County goal of ensuring that every child succeeds academically

Making Student Teaching a Rewarding Journey: Tips from Suzi Fischer

By Gabrielle Cordero on May 7, 2014 1:53 PM


By Guest Author: Suzi Fischer

Tips from a Student Teacher: Suzi Fischer

I contemplated what might be more helpful for prospective and beginner student teachers--a glimpse into the life of a student teacher, or a list of suggestions to help create a successful student teaching experience. I decided to follow in my colleague's footsteps and share the personal insights that I have discovered on this incredibly rewarding journey. Some of these tips might be repeated from other blog contributors--that just means they are extra important!

1. Get to Know Your Students

They are the entire reason you're considering this profession, so make sure you take the time to really get to know them, and enjoy the process of learning more about their unique interests, personalities, and backgrounds. This is my favorite part about teaching--forging these relationships and being a positive force in these students' lives. Knowing your students also helps immensely when formulating your lesson plans--it allows you to create a lesson that meets the specific needs and interests of your particular class and students.

2. Show Them That You Care

When students know that you care about them, not just their interests and background but their well-being and individual growth as well, they begin care about you too. So greet your class every morning, express that you're happy to see them, check in on them one-on-one to make sure they're doing alright, and support them. This means carving out a chunk of your busy day to go to their basketball game, or show up at their band concert, or even just take the time to sit and talk to lonely students through lunch instead of rushing home to finish that 459 assignment or grade that mountain of papers. Even if they don't verbally express it, they care. They care that you care. Additionally, showing students that you care also ties into your classroom management and creating a safe environment for your students.

3. Consult with Your Mentor Teacher, and Often

Where would Luke Skywalker be if he didn't have an Obi-Wan or Yoda to guide him through the challenging process of becoming a Jedi Knight? Just as your students look up to you as a role model and guide, so too, do student teachers need to rely on an experienced mentor to navigate the murky waters of first-year teaching. It is so important to have easy and open lines of communication with your mentor teacher. I meet with my mentor teacher twice a week to collaborate on lesson plans and assess how previous lessons have gone; on top of this, we email and text regularly to ensure that our co-teaching flows smoothly and we are on the same page. It's all about teamwork, collaboration, and constant self-assessment and reflection.

4. Feedback is Your Friend!

The feedback that your mentor teacher and SSU supervisor provide for you is extremely helpful--take their constructive criticism to heart to learn from mistakes and benefit from their wisdom. Now is the time to create positive habits and correct negative ones before they become routine and are ingrained in your everyday teaching.

Also don't be afraid to ask for feedback. There is no such thing as too much feedback, as long as you take the suggestions with a grain of salt and make sure that you stay true to your style of teaching. What works for one teacher may not work for another--it all depends on who you are, the relationship you have with your students, and how you approach teaching.

The advice that helped me the most was gathered from a survey I took from my Senior Honors English class, in which I asked them to anonymously and thoughtfully give suggestions and feedback that would help me to be a better educator. They took the task to heart and I was rewarded with a treasure trove of insightful and helpful information. They were very honest, and while some of the criticism was hard to hear, their willingness to help and perceptive observations aided greatly in my growth as a teacher. I had a short discussion with the class openly examining areas where I need improvement and discussing specific ways in which I could strengthen my skillset. They were pleased that I was genuinely interested in what they had to say and the entire experience was very rewarding for both parties.

5. Be Prepared!

I cannot stress this enough! Always, always, always have a backup plan! Teaching demands flexibility, thinking on your feet, and being able to roll with the punches. One of my favorite sayings is "keep calm and pretend it's on the lesson plan--" it's funny to laugh about, but you will face the unexpected--even when you're expecting it! There have been many times when the classroom wifi has failed when the entire lesson depended on our ability to access the internet. Additionally, you will have days when equipment breaks (like a projector), teachers "borrow" your Elmo on the day you really need it (like during your instruction section of the PACT Teaching Event), or all of the electrical outlets in your room will suddenly decide to stop working. The more prepared you are, the easier it is to whip up a secondary lesson on the spot and proceed just as if it was always on the lesson plan.

School of Education 27th Annual Jack London Award for Educational Innovation to honor three Sonoma County public school programs at May 13th award ceremony

By Pamela Van Halsema on May 5, 2014 1:07 PM


For almost 30 years Sonoma State School of Education has recognized innovative programs in Sonoma County public schools with The Jack London Award for Educational Innovation.

The Jack London Award is designed to recognize, encourage and spread good ideas about innovative educational programs. Innovation required creativity and risk taking, two qualities that author Jack London himself embodied in his life and work.

This year the committee conducted site visits and is naming three recipients of the Jack London Award--two in the Early/Elementary category and one in the Secondary.

2014 Jack London Award Recipients

Secondary Category

Jack London Award Comstock Middle School Project Make Kids.jpg

Project Make students at Comstock Middle School

Comstock Middle School of Santa Rosa is being acknowledged for their "Project Make" program, which gives students the opportunity to delve into hands-on, technical education that promotes problem-solving and real-world applications.

In January of last year, Comstock Middle School converted one of three existing elective sections devoted to Art into a Project Make elective. Teachers John Lundblad and Dawn Thomas spearheaded the class, providing a rich "making" environment, including access to diverse tools and materials from which students can develop and apply academic, aesthetic, technical and interpersonal skills by creating and building meaningful products appropriate to the middle school level. The program gained momentum from a summer Project Make camp offered at the school.

Early/Elementary Category

Santa Rosa Charter School [LaDonna Moore and Catherine McCracken, Directors] is receiving the Jack London Award for the Adlerian Positive Discipline Program which extends to their whole school community--from staff, to students to families. At the school, students learn self-discipline, responsibility, cooperation and problem solving skills through non-punitive and non-permissive techniques.

According to this approach, all ages learn more effective communication and encourage one another, developing skills that will help them in the present and as they grow and move on to high school and beyond. Monthly training for parents, and professional development for teachers in the Adlerian approach has created a safe and nurturing environment for students from preschool through 8th grade for many years.

Finally, Park Side School in Sebastopol is receiving a Jack London Award for their International Baccalaureate World School program, which has the goal of helping students grow to be compassionate, knowledgeable and caring lifelong learners. [Jude Kreissman, IB Program Coordinator]

Park Side teachers have developed curriculum in accordance with International Baccalaureate Primary Years Program (IB PYP) guidelines, with Units of Inquiry that encompass learning, action and reflection. Developed in collaboration, these units address the California Standards while providing a global perspective for students and following a pedagogical model based on inquiry. Park Side is the only IB PYP school in Sonoma County.

Award Criteria

Schools self-nominate their programs, and the committee narrows down the field to just four finalist programs based on their written applications. Programs are judged on their innovative approach, ability to engage teachers and their school community collaboratively, and the impact of the program on students.

For many years one award was presented each year, but in 2011 the Jack London Award Advisory committee decided to expand the award to honor exemplary programs in two categories: Early/Elementary and Secondary level programs.

Award Ceremony

The Jack London Award recipients will be honored at the Annual Education Recognition and Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 13 at the Sonoma State Cooperage from 5-7 p.m. Admission is free to the public; all ages are welcome. Parking pass required.

School of Education honors local educators and alumni at annual awards ceremony

By Pamela Van Halsema on May 5, 2014 12:03 PM

Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Ron Whitman

Sonoma County Assistant Superintendent of Special Education Ron Whitman

For over 20 years Sonoma State's School of Education has acknowledged alumni and community partners for their excellence in local education at the annual School of Education Recognition and Awards Ceremony.  This year's event is slated for Tuesday, May 13 at 5:00 PM on SSU's campus.

The Circle of Excellence Awards recognize the accomplishments and contributions to the local education community by School of Education Alumni and community partners. Faculty members nominate alumni, mentor teachers, and friends of the program for this recognition. 

This year's recipients of the Circle of Excellence Award include: Andy Gibson (Sonoma Valley High School), Tom Griffin (Casa Grande High School), Ron Whitman (Sonoma County Office of Education) and the mentor teachers at Santa Rosa's Kid Street Learning Center.

teacher Erin Fightmaster in her classroom at Kid Street Learning Center

Teacher Erin Fightmaster in her classroom at Kid Street Learning Center

Professor Emiliano Ayala nominated Assistant Superintendent Ron Whitman for his support and ongoing collaboration with the Special Education programs at Sonoma State. "As a strong leader in our community, his colleagues offer high praise for his student-centered approach to decision making that upholds the mission of Sonoma County Office of Education," said Ayala. 

Tom Griffin, department chair at Casa Grande High School, Petaluma, was nominated by Susan Victor, faculty member in the Curriculum Studies and Secondary Education department. "He has been a tireless advocate for English learners and a supportive mentor teacher for Single Subject teaching candidates," said Victor. 

Strong teacher mentors play an essential role in the field experience component of SSU's teacher preparation programs, and both Andy Gibson and three educators from Kid Street Learning Center (Principal Kathleen Mallamo, Clare McKenzie and Erin Fightmaster) are nominated for their exemplary work supporting and mentoring new teacher candidates in the classroom. 

In addition to the Circle of Excellence honors, the School of Education will present the Jack London Awards at the event on May 13, and acknowledge the recipients of two scholarships. Early Childhood Studies major Alyx Fritz will receive the Patricia Nourot Early Childhood Scholarship. Veteran science teacher Linn Briner will receive the F. George Elliott Exemplary Professional Renewal Scholarship, providing the funds for Briner to work on a M.A. in Education in the School of Education.
Sonoma Valley High School teacher Andy Gibson standing outdoors with a group of his students

Sonoma Valley High School teacher Andy Gibson standing outdoors with a group of his students

The Circle of Excellence and scholarship recipients will be honored at the Annual Education Recognition and Awards Ceremony on Tuesday, May 13 at the Sonoma State Cooperage from 5-7 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.  

The event is sponsored by The SSU Alumni Association, the SSU Office of the President, The California Faculty Association, The Sonoma County Educators Council CTA/NEA, the F. George Elliott Scholarship Fund and the Patricia Nourot Scholarship Fund. is free and open to the public.