Five questions for Cori Mantle-Bromley
Cori Mantle-Bromley is dean of the University of Idaho’s College of Education. The UI College of Education offers research-based programs in three general areas. The Dept. of Curriculum and Instruction prepares new teachers and provides professional development and advanced degrees for educators. The Dept. of Leadership and Counseling prepares principals, superintendents, educational leaders, and rehabilitation/community counselors. Finally, the Dept. of Movement Science provides degrees in athletic training, recreation, dance, physical education, and exercise science and health. The College of Education’s main campus is in Moscow, Idaho, a community of about 25,000 people located about six hours north of Boise. The College also has faculty and programs in Idaho Falls, Coeur d’Alene and Boise, and offers many courses and programs online.
What was your first role working in education?
While putting myself through college, I worked at local factories and eventually was hired as a counselor for a federally funded Upward Bound program, supporting high-school-age, first-generation/low-income students through successful high school graduation and college entrance. Because I spoke Spanish, I was also hired to teach 5- and 6-year-old children in a summer migrant program. With no prior elementary-teacher preparation, I learned far more than the children did. My students taught me that children are incredibly resilient. And they helped me comprehend the conditions they lived in while harvesting fruit and vegetables in the area: multiple families living in abandoned houses with no power or water, and young children working long hours in the fields.
What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
I was part of a group that was challenged to merge vocational and traditional teacher-preparation coursework into a single strand of courses. The vocational faculty were upset by the perceived loss of their classes, and were also sure that their unique standards and perspectives would be swallowed up by the larger traditional program. It took a year of meetings, curriculum development, frustration, and trust-building before we unrolled a new set of courses that met all traditional and vocational standards for students who were preparing for secondary teaching. The first course I taught in this new program was one of my best teaching experiences. Students learned to value each other’s programs, and by the end of the class they were committed to working together on both academic and technical content – and were amazed at how segregated and stove-piped the programs had been previously. I came to respect the history of vocational education, its faculty, and its contributions to its students’ future successes.
Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
Because of the group’s focus on data. I want to be a part of a group that is committed to learning how to measure and better communicate our graduates’ effectiveness. I want University of Idaho faculty to base their ongoing program improvement efforts on current and future graduates’ data. Currently, I believe – but don’t know – that the teachers we graduate are well-prepared for teaching careers: our graduates’ content test scores are good, principals speak highly of them, and anecdotally we hear of their successes. However, our state does not yet have a state-wide data system that allows us to learn from graduates’ impact on student learning or compare our graduates’ strengths to those from other institutions. I’m hopeful that my membership in Deans for Impact will support us in our ongoing quest to prepare the best teachers possible.
What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
I remain hopeful that increased scrutiny on teacher preparation and teachers will ultimately result in increased attention on the impact of ever-increasing gaps between those who have and those who do not. Children are the future of our country. Our nation’s teachers are critical to ensuring that students complete high school with the knowledge and skills to continue learning and to make good decisions. I look forward to better communicating to those outside of education how complex the role of excellent teaching is, how demanding it is to understand and modify instruction for individual children’s needs, and how much of children’s futures is outside the influence of teachers.
What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
North Idaho has no urban population base. We have dozens of small, independent school districts tucked into mountain valleys that are distant from their neighboring districts. Some students ride the school bus two to three hours each day. Preparing teachers in and for this context means that placing teacher candidates solely in partner schools (those ideal places where we place cohorts of teacher candidates in one building) is often unrealistic. There may only be one English teacher or one first-grade teacher in the district. Finding ways simultaneously to prepare the number of teachers Idaho needs, respect the size of districts and their capacity to work with teacher candidates, and meet the clinical-practice elements of good teacher preparation is an ongoing challenge for us.
Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring Q&As with all the member deans of Deans for Impact.