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Five questions for Sara Stoelinga

Sara Ray Stoelinga is the Sara Liston Spurlark Director of the Urban Education Institute (UEI) as well as a clinical professor on the University’s Committee on Education. UEI conducts applied research, prepares classroom teachers, operates multiple school campuses, and creates and disseminates tools and solutions that are research-based and practice-proven. The University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program is a part of UEI at the University of Chicago. UChicago UTEP is a two-year graduate program, accredited by the Illinois State Board of Education, that prepares teachers for Chicago Public Schools while empirically testing a model for urban teacher preparation and support. Alumni also receive three years of post-graduation supports.

What was your first role working in education?
I began right out of college as an intern at the pre-cursor organization to the University of Chicago Urban Education Institute, the Center for School Improvement. I was drawn to the organization because of the commitment to bridging research and practice; K-12 education and higher education. I have remained steadfast in my commitment to UEI over the better part of 20 years, as I have grown from intern to director and as UEI as expanded from a few dozen employees to nearly 500. I believe that the work UEI does is about changing the odds for young people growing up in urban America through education. It has been an honor to be a part of this work over two decades.

What is one pivotal moment in your career in educator preparation that left a positive impact on you or others?
A pivotal moment for our program has been watching teachers that we trained become leaders in their own right: teacher leaders, principals, mentors and clinical instructors. We now get to see the excellence of the teachers we trained in the past in a new light, as they train our aspiring teachers and influence the field of education. In important respects, we now have the opportunity to learn from the teachers we have trained, in ways that benefit our aspiring teachers and our program.

Why did you decide to join Deans for Impact?
There is much to be done to enhance the work we do in preparing teachers across the country. Coming together to discuss these important issues with deans from across the country around practice, policy and evidence has the potential to define new pathways for the field of teacher preparation. Together, I believe we can influence the field and contribute to innovative and productive paths forward.

What most excites you about the opportunity to transform the field of educator preparation in the years ahead?
Teachers are among our most important levers in changing the trajectories for young people across the country. Transforming educator preparation can potentially transform lives of students. That work, of changing the odds of young people, especially low-income students of color, is essential; there is nothing more important than this.

What is one surprising thing everyone should know about the program you lead?
One surprising thing everyone should know about the University of Chicago Urban Teacher Education Program is that it is a part of a larger organization called the Urban Education Institute (UEI). In addition to the Urban Teacher Education Program, UEI educates 1,900 children PreK-12 on the South Side of Chicago; conducts rigorous applied research on Chicago Public Schools at the Consortium on Chicago School Research; and creates and distributes innovative tools and professional development nationally at UChicago Impact. Being embedded in UEI creates opportunities for our aspiring teachers to train in our schools, learn from our research, and use our tools. Similarly, our other units benefit from synergies and collaboration with our aspiring teachers.

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


Sara Ray Stoelinga


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