Changing the World, One Classroom at a Time Clayton State University is all about dreams made real. And, a major aspect of making those dreams real is through experiential learning. As Clayton State President Dr. Thomas Hynes likes to point out, the University’s mission statement reads in part, “Clayton State University cultivates an environment of engaged, experienced-based learning, enriched by active community service that prepares students of diverse ages and backgrounds in their lives and careers.” Nowhere at Clayton State is that truer than in the teacher education unit, where experiential learning not only thrives, but is the key to both the success of the program’s graduates, and the students they go on to teach. Indeed, it is the experiential time “doing” teaching that makes the outcome of a Clayton State teacher education degree a dream made real for everyone involved in the program. “Clayton State University’s teacher education program has been the center of my teaching success,” says alumnus Zanita Pugh, Jonesboro Middle School’s 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year. “I found an unparalleled student experience as a student who was excited to investigate the biggest issues of education. As a University devoted to excellence in teaching, learning and developing educational leaders who make a difference, Clayton State bridged the gap and cultivated my desire to be an extraordinary teacher.” The outcome of a Clayton State teacher education degree is even more than imparting knowledge, so says Clayton State graduate Chiara Browning, a sixth grade Social Studies teacher at Hapeville Charter Middle School, and a 2011Georgia Power New Teacher Assistance Grant winner. “Teaching, particularly in a middle school, allows me to reach students at a crucial and interesting age,” she explains. “They are growing and evolving almost daily, and at times, are unsure what to do with themselves. As their teacher, I do so much more than teach Social Studies; social skills, self-esteem, and boundaries are high on my list. I also find myself being a shoulder to cry on and an ear to listen. I cannot imagine a career that would be more fulfilling.” “I love seeing our candidates discovering the joys of teaching,” says Dr. Ruth Caillouet, chair of the Clayton State department of teacher education. “I love seeing the success of our graduates who go on to receive awards as Teachers of the Year and other honors.” Caillouet’s faculty colleagues express similar feelings on teaching and observing the growth of their students, especially through experiential learning. “I have always been a believer in the value of making things ‘real’ to students,” says Dr. Mari Roberts, coordinator, Master of Arts in Teaching program. “Experiential learning encourages reflection, critical analysis and synthesis in student thinking and provides opportunities for students to engage intellectually, take initiative, make decisions, and be accountable for the results.” “Experiential learning is important because it allows students to move beyond textbooks and the four walls of the classroom,” adds Dr. Erica Dotson, ESL program coordinator. “Students are able to make their own observations and apply what they have learned to an authentic and relevant context. I believe that experiential learning allows students to make interesting interdisciplinary connections because their learning occurs real-time.” How important is teacher education, and how important is experiential learning to making dreams real? Dr. David Messer, coordinator of Middle Grades Education, has the answer to that one. “I love being able to work with a diverse group of students who are so committed to the most important job in the world,” he says. “I think that it is important that students see and understand the nexus between the things we talk about in class and what is actually going on in the schools.” And exactly what is going on in the schools where Clayton State students and graduates teach? “I love changing the world – one classroom at a time,” says Caillouet.