Five questions for Mark Girod

Mark Girod is the dean of the College of Education at Western Oregon University. WOU, which is the oldest institution in the Oregon University system, was founded as a normal school in 1856. Today, about one-third of the university’s students are in its College of Education, which sends graduates to districts across the state. Since 1999, more than 3,000 WOU graduates have been hired as educators in Oregon, and each year, the College of Education places more than 300 teacher candidates in schools located in 80 districts.

What was your first role working in education?
I began my career in education as a high school science teacher in rural, eastern Oregon. I loved the challenge of helping students see the value in learning science and of becoming active, engaged adults. I also learned that committing to the development of each child is essential and taking a systematic approach to the facilitation of learning is imperative. At the time, I didn’t understand all the tools and resources at my disposal, nor did I have a framework for how to use them comprehensively. In educator preparation, this gives me a target for which to aim.

What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
Years ago, in a moment of despair around how sometimes disconnected I felt from making a difference in the world, I added up the number of teachers that I had had in class over the years. Multiplying that number by a guess on the number of students those teachers had each year… I began to understand how large a footprint high-quality educator preparation really has in the world. This realization has kept me focused on quality work ever since. I seek to build programs with high expectations for the performance of new teachers, and that arm new teachers with cutting-edge knowledge and techniques, and also fill them with optimism about the role they play in changing the world.

Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
I believe that educator preparation is a moral obligation and that we should employ all possible tools and strategies to do this work as best we can. I find the core values of Deans for Impact to be closely aligned to my own and to what I believe we need to do, and be, if we seek to improve the preparation of educators. This is why I joined Deans for Impact – I believe in the mission.

What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
I work hard to never forget that at the end of the day, at the end of the inference chain linking the prior skills and experiences of potential educators, the practices that they develop in educator preparation, and contexts in which they teach, at the end of this is a little kid struggling to learn. Our work must continue to be motivated by the desire to promote learning, to change lives through education, and to better the world through teaching. I believe teachers change the world and systematic attention to this fact through Deans for Impact excites me enormously.

What is one surprising thing that everyone should know about the program you lead?
Thirty years ago, faculty at Western Oregon University developed an educator performance assessment system called “teacher work sample methodology.” This framework has been the foundation of our efforts to connect teaching practices to student learning, and we have built a rich portfolio of assessments and strategies that promote evidence-based practices in education. It is upon this history and foundation that we seek to promote change in collaboration with Deans for Impact

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

Mark Girod

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