While working on her doctoral degree at the University of North Texas in 2009, Dr. Elizabeth Ward was invited by her mentor to the Association of Teacher Educators conference.
“I really found it to be a home for me,” said Ward of the conference. “It just made sense professionally, and tapped into a lot of my interests. I see it to be an umbrella organization for everyone who is in the field of preparing teachers.”
Eight years later, Ward is not only an associate professor of education at Texas Wesleyan University, but also an ATE College-University Representative board member.
Ward said ATE has taken the lead for promoting advocacy, equity, leadership, and professionalism for teacher educators in all settings, and supports quality for all learners at all levels.
After being elected as a board member last spring, Ward officially took office at the annual conference in February, and will serve until February 2020.
“We are an all-volunteer organization, so in committing to be a board member I commit to attend the two annual conferences, plus two additional board meetings with or without support of the university,” Ward said. “Now, I am very lucky in that our dean, Dr. (Carlos) Martinez really believes in and encourages us to serve at the state national level, so he is assisting me to make sure I have the funds to do these kinds of things.”
Martinez said Ward is providing a voice to small, private institutions at ATE.
“(She) will be able to give a clear sense of what it take to license teachers in small private institutions around the country,” Martinez said. “Professional organizations are vital for the development of policy and practice. They play a critical role in establishing the standards by which teachers are licensed.”
Ward believes that this robust organization is taking a lead in statements on what teaching should look like, and what quality teacher preparation is and is not.
“We as educators in various organizations need to stand up and say, ‘No, we are the experts, we are the ones who are trained in this, we do research in this, and are in the field day in and day out,’ so we are really making an effort to have our collective voices be heard, and to really make a difference,” Ward said.
Ward said an element that makes ATE distinct from the rest is their “give back” program, where everyone attending the conference donates money, and 100 percent of the proceeds go to a local school that is chosen as a gift to the community.
“We believe in putting our money where our mouth is, so the requirements for the chosen school is that it must be a high needs school, it has to be engaged in innovative practices, and really doing things that are research based strategies that we know are going to improve education,” Ward said.
Ward said the check is usually much more than the schools ever expect, and that at the last conferences they gifted a local school more than $3,000.
Dr. Twyla Miranda, a Wesleyan professor for the school of education, is also a member of ATE and frequently gives presentations on teacher preparation at the national conference.
“We are very proud of Dr. Ward’s astute abilities and actions in promoting ethical behaviors in preparation of teachers,” Miranda wrote in an email. “She is a strong believer that it is the highest calling to teach, and to prepare people to teach.”
Ward said she has found a neat personal synergy by being involved in a national organization that believes what she believes, while working at a university that supports that as well.
“I am a passionate defender of public education; it is one of the greatest things that we offer in this country,” she said. “The one thing you can never take away from a human being is their education, and I love teaching at Wesleyan because we are a school that gives the opportunity for people who may not be able to afford a private education, and we provide a small nurturing place for them to thrive.
“I just feel like a super lucky person to work here.”