Deputy Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. made a brief visit to the BYU campus on July 8.
McKay School of Education Associate Clinical Professor Gary Seastrand gave King a tour of the campus.
“We met at the Hinckley Building and gave him a little brief tour through the religious piece there (and) showed him how we’re a faith-based institution,” Seastrand said. “He was commenting on the beauty of the campus.”
King gave a speech in Salt Lake City for National Teachers of the Year, and he visited BYU in the evening.
“It was a great visit. I was very appreciative of folks making time for us,” King said. “I was very impressed by the partnership, particularly the close relationship between the McKay school and the participating schools in the districts.”
One priority of the Department of Education is a continuous improvement of teacher preparation, according to King.
“I try to make sure I’m visiting school districts and higher education institutions [to] experience them firsthand,” King said of his interest in BYU and the Public School Partnership.
King also had another BYU connection that brought him to campus.
“He came to BYU because there’s a person in the Department of Education who’s a graduate of BYU,” Seastrand said. “He has been interested in partnerships because he was commissioner of Education for the state of New York and was very interested in how colleges prepare teachers and the hiring of teachers and how those partnerships work together.”
The McKay School of Education has a Public School Partnership with five school districts in Utah that work together to prepare teachers entering the field and to strengthen teachers already in the field.
“Our partnership is one of the largest and oldest in the country. We are in our 31st year,” Public Relations Director for the McKay School Cindy Glad said. “It exists to provide a place for students to practice teaching, for faculty to do research and for professional development for those in the districts.”
About 10 percent of students at BYU are in a teacher preparation program, according to Barry Graff, assistant director of CITES. CITES stands for Center for the Improvement of Teacher Education and Schooling. Graff has been the assistant director for about a year.
“The CITES department here is kind of that bridging organization between the college and the five districts,” Graff said. “We do a lot of the bridging work between what happens out in schools (and) what happens here at the University. We’re involved in a lot of the professional development.”
Before working for BYU, Graff worked in the Alpine School District, one of the five districts in the partnership, for 26 years. He was the administrator over curriculum and professional development.
“From the school district side of things, we were heavily invested in the partnership,” Graff said. “They were a major source of professional development for a lot of teachers and principals.”
Deputy Secretary King shared his impression of the partnership as well.
“I was struck by how connected the school is to what’s happening in classrooms,” King said. ”It is very clear that the McKay folks are very intentional that the faculty are very close to what is happening in the classroom and they have folks that have recently been in school districts and ensure it stays very connected.”
Gary Seastrand was able to discuss this Public School Partnership with King.
“We spent quite a while with him at dinner with him talking about the partnership,” Seastrand said. “He asked some interesting questions like, ‘What are some of the challenges you have had?’ and, ‘What makes it successful?'”
King appeared to be impressed with the program and even shared some of his own ideas regarding the partnership, according to Seastrand.
“His impression was very positive — extremely positive, I would say,” Seastrand said. “He mentioned to one of the members of the governing board who was there … that he would like to stay in touch with him, possibly have some further communication with him, and he said the same thing to me in terms of the partnership.”
King expressed his interest in returning to BYU.
“It was a great visit and I was pleased to be able to talk to faculty members and educators,” King said. “I’d love in a future visit to get a chance to talk with teachers in training.”
Seastrand is also interested in continuing to communicate with King.
“We’d like to figure out a way to invite him back at some point. That would be of high interest,” Seastrand said. “We could give him additional exposure to the public school partnership and how we operate as a university and as a public school entity.”