Teacher Preparation > Resource Collections > Essays > Cassandra Runyon

Essays on Teacher Preparation by Workshop Participants

Cassandra Runyon (Planetary Geology)
& Leslie Sautter (Marine Geology)

Department of Geology
School of Science and Mathematics
College of Charleston
Charleston, South Carolina

The College of Charleston (CofC) is a four-year liberal arts college located in Charleston, SC. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds. The student body now numbers approximately 12,000 students, 70 percent of whom are South Carolinians; other students come from the other 49 states and 65 foreign countries.

Currently, there is not a formal Earth Science Teacher degree program at the College of Charleston, despite the increased the need for science and mathematics teachers in every county of the state. The college does, however, offer training for Earth Science Teachers at two different levels:

  1. In-service teaching for post-graduates as part of the Critical Needs Teacher program, for candidates holding a Geology degree;
  2. Masters degree programs
    • The School of Education and School of Science and Mathematics together offer a Master's of Education in Science and Mathematics (M.Ed.S.M.). This program is offered for practicing teachers and post-graduates.
    • The School of Education also offers an M.A.T.
We both work closely with students and faculty in these programs to mentor the graduate students, some of whom are in-service teachers while others are pre-service teachers.

The main challenge we have faced has been overcoming the state requirements for teacher certification in Earth Science. Thus, we have placed more emphasis on working with the graduate and in-service teachers. We're now starting to work with the pre-service educators and will continue to work with the local Science Supervisor, State Science Supervisor and State Board of Education as we work through these next steps.

Currently, pre-service teachers are required to take a two-semester sequence in a single lab science (8 hours total), plus an additional semester in a different lab science (4 hours). None of the available introductory courses are geared toward teachers. The science faculty are opposed to such courses, as they feel the curriculum would lack rigor and would "water down" the content.

Recruiting, mentoring and advising future teachers

  • To date, five students with undergraduate geology and/or environmental geoscience degrees have worked with us for their Master's degrees in Education. These students were recruited directly from our Geology classes for undergraduate majors and worked with both of us on community outreach until they graduated. By then, the teaching 'hook' was set.

Role of introductory courses in teacher preparation

  • We are working toward developing an alternative series of introductory level courses that maintain academic rigor, but are taught with a hands-on and inquiry-based approach, so that "best practices" are modeled for future teachers. These courses will be open as electives for all students, but will also target pre-service teachers. The School of Education will assist with the development of these courses and will help to fill them with pre-service teachers. These courses would satisfy the additional 4-hour science requirement needed for education majors.

Research and teaching experiences for future teachers

  • We have both supported future teachers as research assistants and interns with our NASA and NOAA funding. Under this funding, they have assisted with development and implementation of curricula and science education programs. Many have produced theses and educational resource products. Most of this work has been geared toward masters students who will teach at the middle and high school level.
Links between education and geoscience departments
  • The faculty of the Schools of Education and Science and Mathematics (SSM) work very closely together for the benefit of future science educators, beginning with the support of the Deans of both schools. In addition to the formal education support, the education-trainees may also find support at the Charleston County Math & Science Center, located on the CofC campus. This center is funded by the State and provides a Math and Science mentor for educators needing assistance with classroom management, lesson plans and/or curriculum support.
  • In 1999, we established the Lowcountry Hall of Science and Math at the College of Charleston. This Hall brings the Charleston Math and Science Center (formerly the Hub), the M.Ed. in Science and Math program, the NASASouthEast Regional ClearingHouse (SERCH) and the NOAA Project Oceanica under one roof to foster collaboration and sharing of resources. Both the Schools of Education and SSM oversee and support the Lowcountry Hall and provide a Director and full-time Assistant Director.

Supporting alumni in the teaching profession

  • We continue to provide resources and to serve as mentors and colleagues to all of our alums who are now in the teaching profession. We currently employ and collaborate on grants with several.
We will continue to collaborate with the School of Education to develop more funding opportunities and to improve classroom experiences for future science teachers at the College of Charleston.