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Five questions for Karen Symms Gallagher

Karen Symms Gallagher is the Emery Stoops and Joyce King Stoops Dean of the USC Rossier School of Education. The mission of the USC Rossier School of Education is to improve learning in urban education locally, nationally and globally. USC has been offering classes in education since the 1890s and established a Department of Education in 1909; the School of Education was established in 1918. In 2009, the USC Rossier School of Education launched an online Master of Arts in Teaching program, which was the first such program from a major research university.

What was your first role working in education?
Junior high school core teacher (eighth grade Language Arts/Social Studies) at Kellogg Junior High School in Shoreline School District, Seattle, Wash.

What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
I can’t do just one:

  1. Being “RIF-ed” in my first year of teaching, despite the fact that I was considered an “outstanding beginning teacher.”
  2. Teaching in five school districts in three states (Washington, North Carolina and Indiana) and always being a provisional teacher.
  3. Participating and leading the development and implementation of the Cincinnati Initiative for Teacher Education at the University of Cincinnati, working with the Cincinnati Board of Education and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers.
  4. At both the University of Cincinnati and the University of Kansas, teaching freshmen and sophomores in introductory teacher education courses.
  5. Overseeing the developing of the MAT@USC, a pipeline master’s degree with a California teaching credential for adults with a BA/BS who want to become a teacher.

Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
Frustration with the national dialogue about teacher preparation and schools of education – from policymakers and our own professional organizations.

Opportunity to work with like-minded deans who accept the responsibility for the quality of our teacher-education graduates, who want to influence local, state and national policymakers and who want to change the dialogue about what it takes to prepare an effective teacher.

Creation of an organization based on ideas and commitment to certain principles rather than what type of university we represent or the comprehensive, discipline-based, dues-paying organizational model.

What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
That we are willing to risk failure, perhaps a very public failure, because the stakes for millions of school kids are so great – for the students personally, for their families and for all of us as citizens.

We have to break the model that has kept us from changing what we know is not effective for far too many novice teachers.

What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
The USC Rossier School of Education has a diverse student population in its programs in many meanings of the concept of diversity. No one race or ethnicity is in the majority. Since going online, we have increased the number of men in our secondary teacher preparation program, so we are increasing our gender diversity. And students range in age from 23 to 65, with an average age of 33.

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


Karen Symms Gallagher


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