By Sadie Murphy
If we are rooted in anything, it is community. In 1872, when legislators approved the creation of the Glenville branch of the West Virginia Normal School, there was just no money for it. This was mostly because the federal funding in West Virginia was cut. However, this wasn’t going to stop Gilmer Countians. According to "A Brief History of Glenville State College" from the library archives, “Fifty-six citizens came together with funds to establish the school. The majority of these investments were 25 dollars or less. These founders were farmers, merchants, lawyers, carpenters, public officials, democrats, and republicans” with one similar goal tying them all together: “They wanted to see a Normal School at Glenville.”1
There may be individuals who do not understand the significance of this. A Normal School works to set an example for others to follow – a new “norm.” In the past 50-100 years, Normal Schools have been replaced by Teachers Colleges or simply, state colleges with education programs. We are no longer a Normal College or Teachers College, at least not in name.2 Glenville now offers degrees in everything from Accounting to Wildlife Management and English to Land Surveying Technology. We have over 30 different minors available alone. However, the Education Department still holds a vast majority of our students. President Mark Manchin told The Phoenix earlier this semester that he was excited to be getting back to our roots and potentially applying for university status.
How are we getting back to our roots? Glenville faculty has been working for a little over a year so far on establishing a Master's of Education. Within two years, we could be looking at a degree in Curriculum and Instruction for practicing teachers – “those who already have a teaching license and are pursuing their professional development” – and a MAT degree, Masters in the Art of Teaching - a combined program in teaching and subject material that will lead to both a Master's and teaching certification.3 Faculty are working hard to make sure they met HLC (Higher Learning Commission) and HEPC (Higher Education Policy Commission) to ensure the success of the degree, given that it is a license granting program. The degree will also have to be reviewed by the EPPRB (Education Preparation Program Review Board) to provide a micro-look – as to assessments, syllabi, and processes.3
Where are we right now? Dr. Jeff Hunter says, “We should be hearing something this spring from our submission for the program. Then, we will be working on our submission to the EPPRB.”
As far as challenges, Hunter did not talk about the HLC, HEPC, or EPPRB. For him, the biggest challenge is patience. “ We would like to move faster than we can. There is a very clear process. We know that people in central West Virginia could benefit from these programs, higher wages, and receiving a teaching license but we have to follow the processes. We have a very very topnotch team of faculty who are in development for these pieces and building the components as we go. We would all just like to have the final approvals so we can move ahead.”
Hunter commented on the individual programs: “The Curriculum and Instruction program would offer teachers within the 50 states who are required to continue their training post-bachelor’s degree to do so. This would allow teachers in our community to advance their degrees, prepare for other certifications, and enter into national certification towards working as a principal.”3
The MAT is different than normal teaching degrees. It will be fully online so that post-bachelor individuals within content areas, such as English, can continue to work while working towards their degree. Dr. Hunter, Dean of Education, elaborated, “If you have a degree in English Language Arts but no teaching degree and you have decided you really love your home community. 'I want to stay here. I think I can teach, or I am already teaching as a substitute.' You can’t get a teaching license with the current bachelors degree. With an MAT, you are able to take your bachelors degree content and we will match that with the content required for a teaching license and give you the Masters level teacher classes – the pedagogy that we all need. Combine that with exams you would take to receive your license: the PRAXIS Core, the PLT, and Content Exams. [The program would] then provide you with a residency or internship. When you finish your MAT, you have your Masters in Teaching plus a license to teach – a full license. Then, you can take a fulltime position rather than sub.”
There is an exception to the fully online degree program that Dr. Hunter made sure to warn us about. “Under the MAT, if you do not have enough undergraduate content hours, all of your classes may not be online.”
The Master's Programs will look a little different than the typical 16-week classes we are used to here. They will be set up “in smaller pieces” that include 8-week classes plus an exam. Hunter revealed, “We are trying to compress it, in order to, give people an opportunity to work fulltime, which most of these folks are gonna do, and be successful in completing a masters program. It’s very exciting!” It would take approximately two years to complete depending on how many hours they take each semester. “The reality is, as I said earlier, these are working people and we want to make sure we have created it in such a way they could finish it and be successful within being overwhelmed. It’s not easy to do graduate programs and it is even more of a challenge while being a fulltime teacher.” Despite the approximation, individuals will have plenty of time to complete their program. There are no heavy minimum or maximum timespans, however typically they like to see completion within the standard five years. The program creators are sensitive to financial aid difficulties, which can play a role in the length of time.
Having a master's degree really changes the conversation around campus. The college is already an esteemed and integral part of the Gilmer community and education of West Virginians and beyond; however there is a certain level of prestige that comes with offering graduate level programs. This could lead to university status. Hunter admitted “The type of scholarship would change. The masters degree will be very different from the bachelors level. The advanced scholarship approach does change some of the conversation. It does change some of the environment. It will not change our dedication to our bachelor programs. That is who we are. We are a first-generation degree granting college and we will always always celebrate that piece.”
As someone who has been where these individuals may be in the future, Dr. Hunter spoke about his own college experience. “I was a first-generation college student. When I went through my first degree, I, like many, had no clear direction. My parents were not college educated and did not experience these things. So, I made mistakes and I had to start over on more than a couple of things. Things are different now. We provide richer support for incoming students than back in the old days, when I was here. Master programs are where the conversation becomes very important. Talking about the why and the theory or the application of an educational theory really makes you look at what you do as a teacher very differently – call it a different lens – and for me that was an eye opener, it was an epiphany. I liked that. It challenged me. It stressed me. It changed me from the teacher I was to something very new and I think I got a lot more focused on how we can change our pedagogy to better serve the students.”
Lisa Arnold, a GSC EDU Alum, offered a story about a memorable time for her during her undergraduate studies:
“I do remember being in one of my education classes on November 5, 1985, when someone came to our classroom door and announced that anyone hoping to get home via Route 5 (out to I79 at Burnsville) should leave immediately due to rising waters. I was a commuter, so I dashed out of there. I think I was the last car they permitted to cross the Sand Fork Bridge.
I remember driving out Route 5, trying to come up with a plan if I was going to end up being stranded in Glenville. Fortunately, I made it home to Big Otter. When we were finally allowed back on campus, and classes picked back up, I remember having a blue book exam the very first day back in one of my literature classes. I couldn’t believe I was still having that exam! Lol!
I remember noticing all of the debris high up in the trees, where the flood waters had deposited it. It was surreal to imagine the water ever getting that high. In my haste to leave GSC that day, I forgot to check on the girl who always rode to GSC with me on Monday mornings and then back home with me on Friday evenings. She went home every weekend, so she rode with me up and back every week. To this day, I’m not sure she forgives me for forgetting her that day! Lol! In my defense, I never imagined the flood would be so disastrous and that it would be so long before campus got back to normal.”
Taylor Mcclain, a current student in the education department, told us about her humbling experience so far.
“As a lot of people know to become a teacher you have to take multiple Praxis exams and the first set is called the Core, reading, writing, and math. I struggled a lot with the math, but all faculty in the education department and English department were nothing but supportive and encouraging. Although it took me 10 times to finally pass, it was them that made me not give up and keep taking it until I passed. I’m very happy that they did because teaching is my passion!”
Normal Schools brought critical thinking to the one-room schoolhouse. It helped turn teaching into a profession. Glenville has served its citizens and beyond by preparing those educators who will lead the next generation into the future. We are excited to see getting back to our roots and expanding our education department succeed.4
- "A Brief History of Glenville State College." https://www.glenville.edu/library/archives/history
- "What's a Normal School?" https://www.jmu.edu/centennialcelebration/normalschool.shtml
- Information provided by Dr. Hunter.
- This paragraph was rewritten on 2/28/21. The original read: "Hopefully, the college will be successful in expanding these experiences to more individuals in our great community."