Five questions for David Chard

David Chard is the dean of the Annette Caldwell Simmons School of Education & Human Development at Southern Methodist University. The Simmons School, established just 10 years ago, is one of the newest communities on the SMU campus. Although the Simmons School is just a decade old, SMU has been offering courses to prepare students for teaching careers for almost 100 years. Currently, the Simmons School offers master’s, Ed.D., and Ph.D programs in education with specializations congruent with faculty expertise, human development and liberal studies and also provides teacher education courses for the university’s undergraduates.

What was your first role working in education?
My first role in education was as a public school teacher in the Morongo Unified School District in the Morongo Valley in Southern California. Morongo Unified had tremendous teacher turnover, and they recruited me from Michigan to California. I taught high school mathematics. It was a formative year in which I learned how little support the district provided to its new teachers. I think in addition to the poor support they provided to new teachers, the recruiting team also gave this Midwestern farm boy the idea that I’d be just a stone’s throw from the beaches. I learned a lot and left after one year and joined the Peace Corps.

What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
After teaching in Lesotho in southern Africa with the U.S. Peace Corps., I was beginning to believe that teaching was largely a gift that some people had and some didn’t. When I returned to my graduate work at the University of Oregon, I was introduced to the research on teaching. I learned that there was a large body of information about how to teach effectively that could be used to improve anyone’s impact in the classroom. This information included the growing understanding of how to teach for transfer, instructional design techniques that improved student learning, and other psychological and sociological information that could improve teachers’ practices. This was enormously powerful information and fueled my interest in educator preparation.

Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
It probably sounds hackneyed to say, but I believe we are at a critical time in our history as a country. Income disparity, global economic and security challenges, even failure to participate in our democracy, all pose significant threats to our future. I believe that a strong system of public education is essential to ensure that we address these threats as a society. Yet, our data seem to suggest that we are moving in the opposite direction: no longer attracting, developing, and retaining strong educators; no longer investing in our future. Deans for Impact is an organization that I believe is poised to help us understand what is needed in preparing the best teachers for our country’s classrooms. As a dean with a teacher preparation program, nothing is more important than knowing that what we are doing is making a difference.

What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
Educator preparation in the United States has relied historically on craft knowledge and, in some cases, tradition. Deans for Impact gives us the opportunity measure the impact of specific practices related to teacher development. These measures can then help us ensure that we are using the most effective practices in preparing and supporting teachers in our classrooms. This knowledge, and the potential it holds for professional preparation in our field, is powerful.

What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
One surprising thing that folks should know about our program is that though SMU is now 100 years old, our programs in the Simmons School are just reaching their 10-year anniversary. Our youth gives us the chance to be nimble and to be responsive to our local school districts in terms of offering programs that prepare the teachers they need.

Editor’s Note: This post is part of an ongoing series featuring Q&As with all the member deans of Deans for Impact.

David Chard

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