Inside USD

Undergrad Opportunities Exist Through SOLES

Monday, March 28, 2011

Bryce Lyon’s story isn’t the exception, but the example he shares about his career aspiration — to become a teacher — can’t be stated enough.

“I love those little moments when a student gets something or surprises you in some way,” the University of San Diego Math major and English minor said. “I feel if I didn’t appreciate those moments, I’m not meant to be a teacher. But, because I do love those moments and I do live for them, it reinforces to me that I’m supposed to be working in a classroom.”

Lyon is taking Education 384C: Methods of Teaching English Language and Academic Development in Crosscultural Contexts, a course within the School of Leadership and Education Sciences (SOLES) curriculum. The class has a Community Service-Learning component as Lyon (pictured, far right) spends time working with Chesterton Elementary School fourth-graders.

“I love it there. I love the kids. I learn something new every day,” Lyon said. “The other day, I worked with a Vietnamese student who’s been here for 1½ years. I had him tell me a story and I typed it up. When we read the story together, he was grammatically correcting the story, putting in commas, dashes and periods. It was amazing to me to watch this process, knowing he doesn’t have full fluency in English, but he hears and thinks about how it sounds and puts the commas and periods in the right place. It taught me so much, that one little thing. It’s general learning, it’s how we think, and it totally shapes how I want to teach.”

Lyon transferred to USD two years ago from Mira Costa Community College and knew he wanted to be a teacher. He’s got another year to go, but when he finishes in May 2012, his resume will be as long as his passion to teach: a bachelor’s degree in math, a minor in English, single-subject teaching credentials in math and, by passing the CSET, in English, a Master’s in Education and extensive field experiences with elementary, middle and high school students.

“When our students graduate, they’re ready to teach; they’re more than competent beginners,” SOLES Dean Paula Cordeiro said.

It’s a good reminder that SOLES, which offers advance degrees including PhDs, isn’t just a place for graduate students to shine. It also has opportunities for undergraduate students too. More than 100 undergrads are enrolled in SOLES courses and nearly half are working toward a teaching credential. Other programs offered to undergrads include those under the Department of Leadership Studies — a Leadership Studies minor, American Humanics certificate program and curriculum for Army Reserve Officers Training Corps participants. A new minor in education, which would be open to all undergrads, is pending approval.

Having undergraduate students seek a teaching credential isn’t new. It dates back to the university’s founding years.

“There’s a rich tradition of developing teachers through the Department of Education in the College for Women,” Cordeiro said. “We were small and the challenge was always that there weren’t as many options open to women in the College. What would they do when they graduated? Become a nun, teacher or, maybe, a secretary? Then the 1970s and 1980s rolled around and there were many more options for women. We were competing for undergraduate students with other majors.”

Today, the Learning and Teaching Department in SOLES keeps the tradition alive. Teaching credentials, required in California to teach in the public school system, are available through SOLES. Though typically completed after graduation, undergraduate students at USD can complete a credential program, expressing interest as soon as their sophomore year. Partnering with the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), SOLES faculty assist students with three credential programs: Preliminary Single-Subject, Preliminary Multiple Subject and Level I Education Specialist in Mild/Moderate Disabilities. The undergraduate Liberal Studies program, which prepares students to be elementary school teachers, also works closely with SOLES.

“Our partnership with College of Arts and Sciences is crucial,” Cordeiro said. “It does take a university to prepare a teacher. We appreciate the faculty in CAS who value the profession of teaching, who encourage students and demonstrate the passion of their disciplines as part of that encouragement.”

“Helping develop teachers is a priority,” said Jane Friedman, PhD, USD mathematics professor and faculty coordinator for a program that prepares USD undergraduates to be high school math teachers. “The job market may not be great, but having a credential in math is valuable. It stands out on their resume.”

Lyon, who ultimately wants to be a college professor, said he is eager to be a high school math teacher. He said he’s enjoyed working closely with Dr. Friedman and Kathy Estey, a program specialist in SOLES’ Learning and Teaching Department who coordinates the undergraduate teacher credential program.

Cordeiro, in turn, appreciates students such as Lyon who are eager to be among the next wave of teachers.

“I love our undergraduate students,” Cordeiro said. “They’re strong academically. When we interview them, we’ll find out that maybe they were camp counselors or they’ve run Sunday school programs. They’ve had experience working with children and they’re passionate about their disciplines, so let’s recruit them. We want the best and the brightest.”

— Ryan T. Blystone

Learn more about undergraduate teaching credential opportunities available through SOLES, contact Kathy Estey at (619) 260-4159 or by email at

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