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A Foundation For Learning

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MSU's College of Education continues to produce quality instructors and affect generations of students

Every classroom, residence hall and facility that exists on the MSU campus today can be traced back to a school that was established with a singular mission: train students to become amazing teachers. MSU’s College of Education has remained steadfast in maintaining and expanding on that great legacy.

Before becoming known as Morehead State University, the institution was founded as the Morehead Normal School in 1887 as a teacher training institution. It served as a “light to the mountains” that would not only provide opportunities to the Eastern Kentucky region but allowed its graduates to return to their respective hometowns and have a positive impact as they taught a new generation of students.

As the years progressed and the University expanded, its emphasis on education remained one of its highest priorities. The building on the forefront of teaching instruction was Breckinridge Hall. Currently used as a multipurpose facility, it was formerly known as the Breckinridge Training School.

Built in 1931, it has not only served students from preschool through college, but was the University’s laboratory for teacher training for 51 years before fully merging with Morehead State in 1981.

Dr. Reedus Back, former faculty member and administrator from 1974 to 1990, was director of Breckinridge Training School from 1962 to 1966. During his tenure, he pushed for many of the practices the college still implements today. He helped turn old storage rooms into observation room where student teachers could discreetly oversee research classes in progress and encouraged student teachers to leave the halls of Breckinridge to go out into the region’s public schools for first-hand experience. He said his time at both
Breckinridge and MSU allowed him to see both the molding of successful teachers and school officials, as well as the effect they had on their communities.

“Morehead State did a good job of preparing teachers, advisors, counselors, principals and superintendents,” he said. “The influence this University has had on this region, there’s no way to calculate it.”

Gretta Brown Duncan (61), an assistant professor of education from 1969 through 1991, enrolled in Breckinridge Training School in the second grade in 1946 before becoming an MSU Eagle in 1957. She said in her time as a kindergarten teacher and as an MSU faculty member, she felt MSU instilled in her core values and practices that helped her succeed.

She was taught to be an encourager, as well as a teacher when talking to students, and connect with each of them personally, tailoring her instruction to fit their individual progress so they could achieve success. She believes this is part of the reason graduates from the college represent the quality and integrity of MSU’s education programs wherever they teach.

The experience and caliber of the college’s professors and instructors translated to success in the classroom. Their dedication to putting forth time and attention with their students proved to be invaluable.

“I think Morehead State has a much better shot of preparing students thanks to the faculty involvement,” said Dr. Wayne Willis (12), professor of education and interim chair of the Department of Middle Grades & Secondary Education. “It’s faculty who care about teaching and see it as a commitment.”

In the past several years, the college has continued to make strides in its methods of instruction and degree offerings while using engagement and technology to give even more prospective students a chance to earn an education degree. With continued accreditation through the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE), the college made an effort to strike a proper balance between research and practical experience. Dr. Cathy Gunn, dean of the College of Education, said students are sent out into the field earlier in their undergraduate years and with greater frequency to get them acclimated to becoming an instructor and leading their own classrooms effectively from day one.

“They’re putting in about 700 hours of field experience when they’re required to have 200,” Gunn said. “They go into their first classrooms and they already have a year’s worth of experience in teaching.”

The College of Education not only offers opportunities to undergraduate students but to those seeking a graduate degree. With a number of master’s-level degrees, five educational specialists degrees and an Ed.D. program, the college continues to build its offerings and provide numerous pathways to achievement in the field of education. Now, in addition to offering courses at the main campus and several regional campuses, much of the coursework for undergraduate and graduate programs is available online, allowing even more people to experience what the college has to offer.

With programs like the College of Education’s 21st Century Education Enterprise, MSU is bringing opportunity to teachers and educational leaders in the region. This nonprofit organization promotes community engagement partnerships with the region’s schools. Through educational leadership, professional development and the sharing of classroom technology innovations, the college hopes to improve teacher effectiveness and better engage students in the classroom.

This institution was not only founded on the basis of giving students the opportunity to become great teachers, but also sending them out with the ability to make a positive change in their community and in the lives of their students. Whether they attended Morehead Normal School, the Breckinridge Training School or have experienced the array of current options in the College of Education, Morehead State University wants its students to leave the “light to the mountains” and help future generations of students shine even brighter.

“Ultimately, who we serve is not just the students that come here but the children they will someday teach,” Gunn said. “It’s important to make sure the students they will teach get a quality education.”

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