Spark Teacher Education Institute (Spark) is a program of the non-profit Educational Praxis. Spark currently offers a licensure program in Teaching for Social Justice in the State of Vermont. Spark is an rigourous, field-based, teacher preparation program leading to licensure in the candidate’s chosen endorsement area. The program strives to instill an understanding of self and others in conjunction with the development of skills, knowledge, critical thinking and compassion required for creating an equitable and engaging learning environment for diverse learners.
Interns spend a full year in a school setting while at the same time completing course work and participating in integrated seminars. Upon successful completion of the program, students are qualified to apply for appropriate licensure for teacher certification.
The program focuses on teaching for social justice. To this end, the curriculum emphasizes the pedagogy of creating and managing democratic classrooms, building a community within the classroom, implementing reflective assessment, teaching through authentic experiences and teaching for social responsibility. The curriculum is integrated and contextualized in the analysis of historical and current issues.
Experiential learning is a cornerstone of the program. The student acquires both theory and skills through practical experience in the schoolroom, combined with analysis and discussion in seminars with faculty and peers. This work is highly collaborative in nature.
The program is characterized by three distinct facets of preparation:
Exploring Self as Teacher. Interns investigate and seek answers to questions about their own views of teaching and learning. They are asked to recollect their own experiences and subject them to scrutiny. An emphasis is placed on developing an understanding of one’s own cultural roots and worldview while exploring diversity in a global society. Interns will:
● Recall and reflect on their own intellectual and educational past.
● Broaden their critical cultural consciousness.
● Clarify their values and develop new principles in relation to education.
Knowing the Present. Interns focus on the study of the present educational systems, the curricula, and the theories, practices, and policies on which they are based. Concurrently, interns develop skills in critical thinking, clinical observation, reflection, and action research. They develop sound teaching pedagogies including methods and classroom practices that reflect the principles of social justice and equity. Interns will:
● Comprehend and critically examine educational and social theories.
● Examine the presentation of knowledge and its sources.
● Study the cultural groundings of diverse communities from economic, political and social
● Construct and articulate principles of equity and teaching excellence.
● Develop skills required for critical thinking.
● Develop pedagogical practices and methods of teaching that respond to diverse learners and that integrate multicultural education.
Teacher Leadership: Interns use newly acquired knowledge and skills to confront and reconstruct practices and policies essential to creating optimal learning environments for diverse student learners. Interns will:
● Articulate cogently their views of teaching and its practice.
● Master and employ action research skills.
● Learn the skills for effective advocacy, working collaboratively and broadening collegial relationships.
● Implement innovative and principled educational programs in the classroom and school.
● Apply organizational skills to affect educational change in the broader community