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Board of Trustees approves online Principal Leadership graduate program

Board of Trustees approves online Principal Leadership graduate program

Friday, December 20, 2019

The online Master of Arts in Education: Principal Leadership degree is the latest graduate program to be approved by the Fort Lewis College Board of Trustees. The Principal Leadership program is a one-year Principal Licensure and second year master’s degree.

The School of Education now offers two online graduate degrees, and plans are in the works to accept applications for their first cohorts of students in Fall 2020. The online Master of Arts in Education: Special Education degree was approved by the Trustees in May.

All major school districts in northwest New Mexico and southwest Colorado have a need for principals and educators trained in Special Education. The two new programs will help fill these gaps in local schools, and more importantly, the curriculum will include case studies that capture the best practices from schools in this region. 

“An important part of attracting and retaining teachers is having educators that understand our culturally distinct region,” says Dean of the School of Education Richard Fulton. “In both programs, we are doing case studies that originate from experienced leaders from our region,” he added.

The programs will be online but will be highly personalized and focused on experiential learning. Instead of working in the typical online model of reading textbooks and submitting generic responses, students will be in small classes, with a cohort of 20-25 candidates, and will have interactive video instruction and interactions with peers. A special feature of the Principal Leadership program will be opportunities to attend workshops and networking events at FLC each semester on special topics, such as integrating culture and language into the curriculum and mental health programming for K-12 schools. 

"An important part of attracting and retaining teachers is having educators that understand our culturally distinct region. In both programs, we are doing case studies that originate from experienced leaders from our region."

School of Education Dean Richard Fulton

Local education leaders were crucial the design of the programs and will partner with the College in providing focused internships in their schools and programs. In both the Principal Leadership and Special Education programs, candidates will have district-based mentors, as well as School of Education supervisors, to help guide their course-based internships and learning activities. 

“Fort Lewis College has a long history of supporting education in the Four Corners and the Principal Licensure program will afford our rural educators a local career ladder for leading a school,” says FLC alumnus Kevin Aten (English, ’90), superintendent of Schools for Bayfield School District.

Recruitment and retention of qualified Special Education teachers continues to be a priority for regional school districts. Adrea Bogle, executive director of San Juan Board of Cooperative Educational Services, said the Special Education graduate program will have a large impact on the region by offering a pathway into teaching in special education that is both rigorous and supportive.

“The program is also unique in that it recognizes the diversity and rural context of our region and offers a structure that accommodates non-traditional students,” she says.

In early 2019, the Trustees approved the new strategic plan for the College, which emphasizes new program development, including online programming, and more collaborations with community and regional partners that match student needs and job market demands. Since the Higher Learning Commission gave FLC approval to offer fully online programs in June 2019, the College has leveraged its partnerships with local employers to add the two graduate options, as well as a Certificate in Ski Resort Operations.

“We know students are looking for distance learning options but that they also want their education to be hands-on and connected to the communities in which they live,” says President Tom Stritikus. “We want to make more concerted efforts with our regional partners to develop programs that are both online and locally relevant.”

The School of Education now has five graduate programs, including a teacher licensure option. Students learn progressive methods for today’s dynamic classrooms and are taught by faculty highly qualified to instruct on social-emotional competency, culturally inclusive pedagogy, and linguistic diversity. 

Information about the Master of Arts in Education programs is available at graduate.fortlewis.edu and tuition and fees for graduate programs can be found at www.fortlewis.edu/tuition. Qualified Native American students can attend Fort Lewis College tuition free, including graduate programs.

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