Whether it’s Common Core, test score accountability or new technology, Dr. Dan Shepherd says Missouri Western’s Department of Education is prepared to meet the challenges of change and prepare its students to be great teachers. The assistant professor and chair of the department has seen a lot of changes since he began his career as a high school English teacher more than 25 years ago, but Missouri Western’s programs change to continue to meet the directives of the accreditors.

“Changes have been fast and furious, but on balance, the changes have been good,” he says.

Dr. Shepherd is in his third year as department chair at Missouri Western. Even with all the changes from state and federal levels, he and all the education professors love what they do.

“Everyone in the department is passionate about training the next generation of teachers,” he said. “Few things are more important, and we believe in what we do.”    

The 12 professors in the department once taught high school, middle school or elementary school, and students say they appreciate their professors’ passion, along with hearing examples from their experiences.

Education professors speak at conferences and write many papers every year. In 2015, Susan Bashinski, associate professor of education, published four articles in three peer-reviewed journals and published a paper in an international conference’s proceedings. She also gave seven presentations of her research on learners with multiple disabilities at conferences in Canada, Chicago, Virginia and Romania.

Currently, there are approximately 400 undergraduate and graduate students seeking degrees in the education field. The department boasts a high placement rate for their graduates, and Dr. Shepherd said he is proud that the majority remain in the region.

Missouri Western’s teacher preparation program has been a model for programs across the nation, because students start observing in area schools their sophomore year of college. The amount of time in area schools increases each year and culminates in full-time for 14 weeks of their last semester as a student teacher. Under the classroom teacher’s supervision, the Missouri Western student does everything the classroom teacher would do.

Dr. Shepherd also noted that students additionally spend time in area classrooms specifically for reading methods and math method courses, and special education early childhood courses.

“We steer young people on a path they often didn’t know they could go,” Dr. Shepherd said. “We love inspiring young people to see the possibilities of what good teaching can mean in the lives of their students. Our department succeeds at that.”